Thank goodness for Skype/Facetime/Facebook video chat

Sometimes I hate how electronic centered we have become as a culture, but I have to say lately I have been a pretty big fan of the ability to see people and talk to people across the world from me. I honestly don’t know how I would have made it this far this sanely without the ability to communicate with family and friends back home. Facetime, and Facebook, and Skype have been lifesavers for me. My family means the world to me and are my safety net and comfort and I couldn’t do this or have done this without them.

Its not the same to see them through a screen and hear their voice through headphones, and I absolutely HATE that I can’t cuddle with my mom, hold my baby niece, hug my nephews and my sisters and my gramma, or kiss my boyfriend. But being able to spend time “face to face” with them and hear their voice and talk to them and show them things has been so absolutely wonderful.

Being able to see and talk to my family has been so incredibly therapeutic and comforting when I’m stressed or homesick. Once or twice a week I get to video chat my mom and have a nice long talk about anything and everything and I love getting to share my experiences with her and catch up ๐Ÿ™‚ A couple days ago I got to skype my lovely sister and her two adorable kiddos for the first time and it was beyond words. Seeing my baby niece and how big she is getting was so good. I miss her so much. The best part was seeing her reaction to seeing me on the screen. I wasn’t sure if she was going to recognize me, but she did!! She heard my voice and saw my face and she started making noises and waving her little arms and then kept trying to kiss me through the screen. Made this auntie’s heart very very happy. Then there is my sweet 5yr old nephew who was so happy to see me and tell me about school and his new friends and to show me his legos and his treasure box. I loved that he wanted to connect with me ๐Ÿ™‚ After my sister ended the call, he called me back because he wasn’t ready to be done hanging out with me – so we “played cards” (which was basically him playing cards with his dad, and me watching) but it still made my heart so happy and made me feel so wanted and loved. And then there is my frequent and often lengthy but sometimes super quick facetimes with my wonderful guy person who calls whenever he has a few minutes, just to talk to me and see how I’m doing. He has been a lifesaver to me. As much as I lean on my mom for support, he has probably been my biggest and most frequent encourager so far on this trip; always there willing and ready to listen to me cry and complain and always trying (and succeeding) to cheer me up.

It is amazing how something we take for granted and use everyday for entertainment or convenience can also provide this emotional connection. The internet and my phone/computer have provided a way for me to feel and continue to be connected to the people that mean so much to me that are currently so far away. I never thought I would love my phone so much as I do right now, I know it probably sounds bad, but here it isn’t just my iPhone, its my lifeline and connection to the people I care about. I never want to value an object over the actual people, and I definitely don’t even now, but I am very glad that having it helps me value my time with those people so much more.

In conclusion, I just want to say THANK YOU to the people who have given some of their time to talk to me and helped me get through this first month living in Paris. You all mean so much to me ๐Ÿ™‚

End of Week THREE update

So hard to believe tomorrow is the beginning of week 4 of classes and being in Paris. That means I’ve been here almost a month.

So here are a few things I thought I’d share from my last three weeks.

1. French Food. holy cow. Mostly I buy a few things from the Monoprix (their version of target- kinda. Its got a grocery store, clothing, household supplies, beauty supplies, school supplies, clothing…) and cook at home and take my own lunch to school. But I have eaten out a few times and its been incredible every time.

So far I’ve had probably too many Macarons (you know, those amazing little round sweet soft pastries with the soft gooey middle and the crisp outside) I’ve had raspberry, salted caramel, something in french that i don’t know the translation for but it was some kind of citrus.., and pistachio. The Best raspberry one is from Paul’s- it has real raspberry jam in the center. The pistachio from Paul’s is also good. My favorite has to be the salted caramel from a little chocolate shop down the street from my house. it is truly divine. ย Paul’s also has THE BEST pretzel I’ve ever had, and really good quiche too. I like Paul’s bakery a lot. They are all over the city, so its a chain, but the food is always amazing at every one of them. The best one so far is the one (luckily) that is near my school.

Other foods that have been incredible: Penne pasta with a cream truffle sauce from Le Marche near the Eiffel Tower, Chicken Nuggets with a creamy and a little bit spicy sauce from Zig-Zag (a bar, cafe, restaurant that my friend Miranda found and our group of friends have decided that is is now our spot) and they also have delicious hot chocolate and incredible Creme Brulee. The best Crepe I’ve had so far was at a little stand by a carousel in Montmarte- it was chicken and cheese with salt and pepper and so good. And right now as I’m writing this I’m eating some kind of meat with mashed potatoes and baguette that Madame (our host) made and It is so good. Also its the first home-cooked meal I’ve had in three weeks. She is always cooking elaborate and seriously amazing smelling food for her, her sister and the Italian girls, but tonight is the first time she has offered me any. ย Also – NUTELLA. need I say more?

2. Every night has the most stunning sunsets. I mean its almost a fairytale. Our apartment is on the 9th floor, and has a balcony that looks over the city. A spire from the Swedish church in Paris peeks up just beyond our building, and the montparnasse tower (the only skyscraper in paris) stands tall and alone above the rest of the quaint 121foot classic Parisian buildings. In the distance to the right are more modern and skyscraperish buildings. We have a perfect view of the sunrise, and the sunset, but the sunset takes the gold. Every single one is more incredible than I can describe. Starting off as glowing silver clouds mixed with pale blue sky, and deepening into silver clouds with rose gold bursting at the seams and edges, darkening into fully cotton candy pink clouds mixed with orange sherbert sky which then change again and fade into a purpley pink and pale yellow against a navy sky. Every night is another masterpiece.

3. Walking. Walking everywhere. Even though the city is rather small and compact, it takes at least 15 minutes to go anywhere. First there is the 5 minute walk to the nearest metro, then a few minute walk inside the station and then wait for the train, then however long on that train till you have to change lines which requires more tunnels and stairs and more waiting. And often the nearest metro for wherever you are going is at least a 5 minute walk, sometimes as short as 10minute walk away from your destination. Lets just say, I’m getting my exercise. Stairs into the metro station, sometimes more than one flight once you are inside, and then stairs to get out. I don’t mind it, its just an adjustment. One day last week I walked over 11 miles just getting to school, to the Louvre, around the Louvre, from the Louvre to the metro, then through montmartre, and home. 11 MILES in one day just doing normal activities. Crazy. But its good because it cancels out all the pasta, sweets, and bread I’ve been eating..

4. Everyone smokes. The air is nasty. and I hate it. I can’t walk more than 10 feet without getting a puff of cigarette smoke blown into my face. I feel like I’m suffocating. I’m amazed at how many people smoke. I think its the “cool” thing to do or just a social thing. I wonder how many people actually like it, and how many do it because everyone else does it. I walk by a french school every morning to get to the metro and its at the time when that school has its morning break.. not kidding, at least 50 teenagers are standing in front of the school smoking. We have learned to walk in the street instead of trying to force our way through the pack of suit clad bodies and grey cloud of toxins.

5. The French LOVE their Cafes. There is a Cafe on every corner. not kidding. With seating on the sidewalk and inside, to no surprise the outside is always more full than inside. want to know why? Smoking. Its not allowed indoors. People sit and drink and eat and smoke and talk for Hours on end at any time of the day. I actually admire the French for knowing how to be with people and know how to take a break and enjoy the day.

6. Nothing is open on Sunday. The French take the day off and spend it in parks either jogging, playing soccer, laying on blankets and enjoying a picnic, taking a leisurely walk down by the river, sitting on the banks of the Seine river with a spread of cheese and bread and wine, or just strolling down the streets. They make time for family and rest. I admire that (although not being able to go down to the market or store on a Sunday is a bit annoying.)

7. Last thing for now. Language. Three weeks in and my grasp on the French language is not much better. Hearing it all day everyday doesn’t help much. Yes I guess I can understand a bit, usually I can understand most of what Madame says, and about half of what my french teacher says… but I still am not quite able to form sentences or respond with anything more advanced than “oui”, “d’accord” , “Merci”, ย “de rien”, “s’il vous plait” “au revoir” you know, the basic stuff. So its still a little challenging doing anything- even super simple things.

Well thats about it for now. These first weeks have been exhausting, exciting, teaching, wonderful, amazing, and hard – but so worth it. I am loving things more and finding more to love rather than just being critical.

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Two weeks

Today marks two weeks since I have been here in Paris. Crazy. Time does this weird thing where these two weeks feel like months and I feel like I’ve seen everything and done everything yet, I have barely done anything at all.

In these two weeks I have learned so much yet hardly anything. Life here is taking some getting used to but most adjustments haven’t been too difficult. My body is always tired from all the walking I have been doing – here the only way to get around is your feet and the metro. The metro is fine I actually enjoy it, some people are intimidated by it but I find it very straight forward and simple, although I don’t know if i’ll ever get totally used to the crowd or the stuffiness of the train. Everything here is ridiculously expensive! I thought food at the grocery or at restaurants at home were $$ but here its more like $$$$$. Thinking in just Euro terms its not too bad but when you convert the eruo to dollars the prices seem outrageous. But I’m finding that for about 15 Euro I can buy enough groceries to last me 5ish days so thats not too bad, just an adjustment to have to buy and cook all my own meals. Luckily I know how to cook some basic meals on the stove (mostly eggs, pasta, and veggies) But its good for me ๐Ÿ™‚ I have found that I kind of like cooking, although I do miss my mom’s cooking. The weather is more finicky than back in Norcal; yesterday it was rather warm and humid all afternoon and then within 10 minutes there was strong wind, thunder, lightning, and rain. 20 minutes later the sky was clear again. Probably the biggest and hardest adjustment for me is not hearing english all the time. My brain is getting so tired from having to work so hard to understand anything. Sometimes when I’m at home (the place i’m staying) I just want to cry because even the simplest task around here takes so much effort since our host speaks almost no english and my french is so bad I can barely communicate with her.

Besides those adjustments I love it here. The city is So Beautiful. I love just looking at it. School is going well, classes are good and I’ve made some friends who I enjoy ๐Ÿ™‚ This last week I was finally able to get out and about and explore a bit since the first week I got sick and was at home in bed for 3 days.

This is truly an amazing experience that I know is going to change me, it already has started. I can’t wait for more days to experience and more memories that will be made.

Another list

So far I have been making lists of things I need to do in Paris, places I need to go, things I need to see… but today I decided that I don’t really have any personal goals going into this semester. I know that I will learn so much and gain so much appreciation and parts of the culture, but I have decided to start making a list of things/goals/skills I want to learn how to do or accomplish.

Here is my list so far:

  • I want to come home with some cooking skills. I am 20 yrs old and I can still pretty much only cook pasta (as long as the sauce is pre-made), quesadillas, grilled cheese, and sort of French toast. The French are known for their Ah-mazing food, so I feel that I should take advantage of my opportunity to 1, be away from my wonderful mother for long enough so I won’t just rely on her fabulous meals, and 2, I get to live in Paris for three whole months, with a French family so I’m sure I’ll have plenty of opportunities to learn from them.
  • I would love to become more confident with my French speaking skills. I know a very very little bit of French at the moment, and am way too self conscious to actually use any of it. But hopefully after living in it for a few months I can at least become a little bit more confident with speaking it.
  • I hope to come home exuding a new-found confidence that I gained from having to find my way in a new and foreign place. I hope to become more confident in myself, and my future.

Capturer une photo de vie ร  la fois (Capturing life one photo at a time) Pt. 1 Les portes

So this might seem like a silly thing, but its something that today I have decided that I want to do while I’m in Paris. I have decided to start making lists or jotting down things I want to be taking pictures of while I’m there. When I was in Europe two years ago I thought I was taking tons of pictures, but looking through them now I’m realizing that I really didn’t take as many as I wanted to. So this time around I want to have pictures of everything I find unique, interesting, different, exquisite, breathtaking, strange, and beautiful. I want to capture everything. So this is my first entry of my photo list series.

I have seen pictures of unique and colorful doors in Paris and I have decided that one thing I want to try to do is take a picture of every door I like or even don’t like that much, as long as it is different and interesting. I like doors, if you think about it they hold so much meaning. A door can be a symbol of security, keeping the bad stuff out and the good stuff in. It can be a symbol of acceptance, like you are being welcomed into something, a new opportunity (like the saying “If one door closes, another will open”) or in my case of studying abroad, so many “doors” have been opened for me to be able to go, and also I’m going into a new phase in my life and ย taking a step into a whole new world – leaving behind the place I’ve known my whole life and stepping into a new one. Doors are something we take for granted everyday and probably something we don’t give much thought to, but the French have this view about life that every little thing is to be appreciated, and are known for their art and design- ย and they even carry that into the doors to their houses and businesses.

Here are a few pictures (that I did not take) to give you an idea of what I’m talking about:

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I have been so obsessed with researching and finding out all I can about Paris, what to expect, what to do there, insider local secrets.. and I stumbled across this one blog (which is Fabulous) and one of the posts shared favorite places of the author. One of these was the American Church in Paris. This made me SO EXCITED. One of the things I have been nervous/unsure about was where I am going to go to church while I’m there, but finding out about an American church there with a college group makes me feel so much more comfortable with going. Just knowing I’ll have a place where I can (potentially) go and be with other Christians who speak english and know the city and can be a resource and friends makes me feel so much more at ease.

Days like these

Its April 10th, and right now I am sitting outside in my backyard on our patio, underneath the big sun umbrella that covers a little round clear bubbled glass table with white metal trim. It is 2:20, and 76 degrees. Its a lazy day, but bright and lively. The people who live in the house behind us are working out in the yard, bees are buzzing behind me enjoying the blooming bright purple lavender, the tall uncut grasses are rustling as the gentle breeze blows them, birds are chirping and dogs are barking. My damp hair is plied in a bun on the top of my head, a pair of cheap tan forever 21 sunglasses are covering my eyes, and my bare shoulders are soaking in this warm sunshine. Why am I telling you this? Its because I love it so much, and these kind of days are probably not going to happen while I’m abroad. I have no doubt I’m going to have lovely peaceful warm Parisian days, but they won’t be the same. Here in my fairly small hometown in California, things are pretty peaceful and easy. Its not an itty bitty town, but its spread out, homey, comfortable, and open with lots of empty space. There are trees everywhere, between buildings, on the side of roads, lining the highway; big sprawling Oaks and tall redwoods. This is all I have ever known, and as much as I am going to love Paris and my time there, I know that I’m going to miss my little town. I’m excited for a new city, one that is big and bustling and lively; stuffed to the brim with stores and cafes and culture. But its also quite intimidating. I’m nervous about being overwhelmed and overstimulated with everything that is happening going to be surrounding me. But I still have 4 and 1/2 months to soak up and enjoy every bit of my little town ๐Ÿ™‚