Paris

The final post?

No one warns you about the emotions that will rush over you once you return home. All anyone (yourself included) talks about, is how different it will feel once you arrive abroad, and how amazing it will be. The topic that gets overlooked however, is the culture shock you will face upon returning home.

If you are anywhere for a substantial amount of time, especially a place where they speak a different language, it can be overwhelming. You eventually get accustomed to hearing another language besides your native tongue surrounding you. You may pick up some of the language, expressions, or tone. What you don’t think about, is once you return home, you will be yanked out of that environment you’ve been living in for the last 15 months. There is no gradual movement back into that life. I went from hearing French around me the morning I flew out (and for 15 months), to hearing solely English being spoken later that evening. I found myself being startled in the grocery store, hearing everyones conversations, and them hearing mine.

Don’t get me wrong, I have been quite pleased getting reacquainted with some of my favorite things and conveniences that live in the USA. But boy do I miss a bunch of things.

We are all well to aware of the culture shock you will face once going abroad, but the silent killer – is the culture shock that waits for you once you return home.

I have put off writing my ‘last post’ or not even necessarily my final post pertaining to my time in Paris, or experiences with being an au pair. But I have been putting off writing a piece about how it feels to leave, and to come home. How it feels to be back with all of your familiar – yet unfamiliar surroundings. I put it off, I suppose, to delay the inevitable. The inevitable being that I fully acknowledge that my time is finished. Clearly I know it’s over, and it has been for nearly 6 weeks now. There is just something about putting it into writing, that makes something so obsolete. There have been plenty of topics that I have yet (and may never) touch on in this blog, simply for the fact that I know that once I put pen to paper- or in this case typed words onto this blog, that some things may finally end. Whether that be moments had solo, relationships formed, memories savored, or in the larger sense, my entire time in Paris. So although I realize I can’t avoid writing a sort of, ‘end piece’ to my time had in France, I may still savor a few thoughts just for myself, in the hopes to make a few things last a little longer.

Returning home, is not as simple as it sounds. I suppose that if you went abroad, leaving certain belongings such as a car, apartment, and a secured job position for your return, things wouldn’t be too difficult. But, if when you left, you took off leaving no car, apartment, or secured job position, things may be just a tad difficult when that return date appears.

For example, the first thing you naturally think to get taken care of once returning to the States, is a job. But in order to get to a job, you’ll need transportation. Unless however, you live in a place where public transportation is a reliable, and frequent source. Either way, you will need some way to get to and from your place of work. The downside of that is, in order to get a vehicle, you need a number of things. Such as proof of residence – which you clearly don’t have, since you’ve been out of the country for the last 15 months. Secondly, you’ll need proof of income (and technically months of proof) – which again, you don’t have since you’ve just returned to the country. So you can see the dilema. You can’t get one, without the other, but you can’t get the other, without the one. I used to think that leaving to go to France was a headache, with all the paperworks and hoop jumping. I didn’t realize I would have to continue the hoop jumping once returning to my own home State. So long story short, this entire process is not for the faint of heart. You must be in it to win it, both with deciding to go abroad (and have the best experience of your life) but also the stamina to continue that gung-ho attitude, pushing forward once being back State side.

I still don’t know if I’m ready to label this post as the ‘end’. So for now, I won’t.
  

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Paris

Next stop, Oregon

“It is both a blessing and a curse to know and to love two countries”

When I read this sentence in a book, I instantly knew it would be a sentence that would resonate deep within me. It would shake me down to the core, and sit with me for the remainder of time.

Currently on the last leg of my travels back home. Despite me having nearly 15 hours of alone time, to sit and reflect, I haven’t been able to let my mind realize it’s really over yet.

I suppose the excitement of returning home, and the realization that within a matter of 2 hours, I will be reunited with the most important people in my life – is probably a big factor for me not being too emotional at this point.

I had felt guilty these last couple weeks. Anytime I spoke with family or friends back home, and they expressed their joy about my return, it would be matched by a less than enthusiastic response. That response was not from a lack of excitement of seeing them, but moreso, I felt I needed to only focus on my last few days in Paris. Call it selfish, call it what you will, but it was necessary. I wanted to hang out to those moments until the very last second. Now, that it’s all said and done, I’m pretty positive I managed to do that.

The last night was spent with the remainder of my friends here in Paris. The weather was dark and gloomy the entire day, that was until we stepped out to meet at the Pont Alexandre 111 bridge. The clouds parted, and greeted us with a spectacular sunset of shades of pinks and oranges surrounding us. We made toasts, popped the champagne, and reminicsed. Scottie and I laughed over the story of how we became friends. How she originally thought (and currently still does) I was “one crazy American”.

We made our way near Chatelet, but managed to get lost. A group of girls that have all lived here for 15 months or more, and we lost our way. Maybe it was due to the champagne, or maybe it was because we weren’t necessarily too concerned with our exact steps. We were just in the moment, enjoying Paris, one last time together. During out lost stroll, we managed to see the Notre Dame, cross over the Pont Neuf bridge, glide past Hotel De Ville, just in time to meet up with the rest of the group.

Greeting one another with ‘Salut’s’ the double cheek kiss, and hugs that were tighter – and longer than normal, just ensuring we expressed that we knew what was coming later that night. Clinking glasses, saying ‘Sante’ and making sure we all made eye contact. These were the moments. Nothing extravagent, and even when the line for the Fireman’s ball we expected to go to was too long, it didn’t matter. We were happy to just continue without forcing plans.

I’ll miss those beautiful cobble stone streets, I’ll miss it all.

Merci France, for truely, the best time of my life.
(There may be many grammatical, or spelling errors in here, seeing as it was written from a partial hungover, slew deprived and emotional mindset. So let’s just let it slide until I gain the energy to double check)    
    
    
    
    
    

   

  

   

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Paris

One last drink

My last week in Paris was packed full with goodbye parties, last drinks to be grabbed with people I haven’t seen for a while. Even people who may have been an ex boo.

There were no hard feelings between T2 and I. We parted on a level of understanding. Realizing I was leaving, and some things just aren’t meant to work out. So since there were no hard feelings, we had agreed to get together one last time to grab some drinks before I took off.

He sent me the address for the place, which surprisingly was directly across the street of the place I had mentioned a while ago that T and I went to, and I later revisited with friends. My heart almost stopped when I walked down the street, following my google maps, only to look up and think ‘you’ve got to be kidding me’. Thankfully, his taste in places was not at the same level of original T’s, so no Labutte for us.

The evening was friendly, and nice to get a catch up in. There wasn’t any awkwardness, just two friends talking about old stories, and also discussing our futures. The one notable thing from that night however, is the two large bruise marks located on each side of his neck. ‘Am I imagining this?’ – I thought to myself. Clearly, he would not show up, in a deep V-neck T-shirt, knowing he has two very visible hickeys.  Au contraire , he did.
In typical T2 fashion, he found me making fun of him for it – to overshare about the intimate details as to where they came from. I was quickly reminded of one of the reasons things were never a perfect match for him and I.

Between going on dates with guys that overshared about their armpit sweat, to guys who say way too much about hickeys, France is now notorious for home of the over sharers. While some of the experiences have been cringe worthy, they have all made for funny stories.

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Last weekend in Paris 

A weekend with the English.
My last weekend in Paris was spent with a friend from across the pond.  It had been a trip that had been put off for quite some time, and thankfully was acted upon on my last weekend here.  

In the short amount of time he was here, we managed to walk to almost every end of Paris.  Taking in all the sites, revisiting my favorite streets, and enjoying in the local delicasies (frogs legs were consumed).  

It was a lovely distraction, having someone visiting and taking the role of tour guide.  It allowed me to share some of my favorite little hangouts, while not having to focus on the reality of me leaving within 48 hours.  

We managed to go up in the Eiffel Tower after consuming a bottle of champagne.  I felt that was the only appropriate way to do it.  If you’re going to go up the tower, you must have the bubbly in your system.  

It was the first time I’ve been up it during my time here, I’m glad I saved it for the end.  It was a delightful way to end the last weekend Paris.  

There are about a dozen emotions I’m currently feeling, and will put them all down once I have enough time to construct them.  
Stay tuned. 
                     
    
     

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Paris

France is never a walk in the park, not for me at least

My apologies for the lack of structure in regards to my posts, and their timings. I am bouncing from future, to past, to super past, all without it being done in a chronological order. I suppose that’s representative of my mindset at the moment. So Je pense, maybe it’s better this way.

I’d like to briefly write about the moments leading up to the purchase of my ticket home. I should have expected that it would not be a piece of cake, seeing how nothing ever was when it came to France and I.

The entire process leading up to me coming here, my passport, visa, selling of furniture and car, couldn’t even be described as disasterous. It was worse than that. I may as well quickly pinpoint some of the events that took place before I came here, just to paint the picture for you all.

-A passport that was express shipped, got misdelivered, had the tracking number mistakingly given to another item (so now my passport had no tracking number)
-Not having the correct papers for my visa by the time I needed to purchase my plane ticket. Having to make my visa appointment in San Fransisco a mere 12 days before I was set to fly out to Paris. You could say I was a little nervous.
-Having to then turn my passport over to the French Embassy in SF, after just having gone through hell with locating it the previous week.
-Selling furniture over craigslist, and having to deal with the people of craigsist. My favorite one, would have to be the man that came and looked at my (amazing) vintage trunk, left to get a bigger car, and ‘accidently’ texted me saying “Do you want to have sex tonight?”. Needless to say, that was the last item I sold on craigslist.
-Having my car towed, break down, towed again in a matter of 2 days. Having to switch from selling a well kept, clean, running car, to now selling a car that had a fried engine. Engine damage that occurred from the car towing company, cracking an oil can, letting my poor innocent engine fry. Only later to find out, that my car just needed a new oil can. Unfortunately that news was discovered after I had already signed the title over to the new owner. So a total loss.

Now, with the purchase of a return ticket looming over my head, the nerves set in. Not only were emotions high due to the fact that I was now purchasing a one way ticket home. Ensuring that my time here is done, finis. Ending my life here in France is emotional enough. Unfortunately the emotions did not stop there, instead they were channeled in a less sad emotion, but rather a nervous/irritated emotion.

Somehow my bank had put a restricted amount on my debit card, ensuring I couldn’t make any purchase online greater than $250. Which is madness. Not only had I already made all the necessary calls back before I left, informing my bank about my time abroad, but who would put such a limit on their DEBIT card? Madness. A quick little plane ticket purchase, turned into nearly a two hour event. FaceTime being ran on my iPad to my mother, on my cell phone in the other hand on the airline webiste, and the house phone in one ear, making international calls to my bank at 2 am. After seven, yes SEVEN failed attempts at purchasing the ticket, it finally went through. ‘Great’ we thought, but the great quickly turned into panic when I had yet to receive any confirmation code, email, or anything confirming that I would have a plane ticket instead of just the price of a plane ticket coming out of my bank. As if this wasn’t exciting enough, I then was advised to speak with the plane company themselves, a German company. Lovely.

Long story short, although I suppose that this actually isn’t a ‘short’ version… so long story long, I received a confirmation about thirty minutes after the purchase went through. By the time this was all said and done, I didn’t have any energy to wrap my mind around the fact that it was set, my departure was set. So maybe it wasn’t a bad thing after all? Instead of being an emotional wreck at the idea of leaving, I was all too consumed by yet another classic Hannah experience.

I will say, I am looking forward to not having to deal with places like the prefecture, airlines, visa applications, etc for at least a little while.

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Walking down memory lane 

Last time I was here, I was with him. I arrived first – as I usually did with everyone here. He wanted to sit inside, as opposed to my choice I had already made, of sitting outside. No skin off my back, what T wants, is usually the best choice anyways. 
We squeezed our way into the heated room of the cafe, squishing our bodies into the only table left. The crispness of the winter air leaving us red faced with runny noses. We found ourselves sandwiched between all native French speakers, and I was the sore thumb. (when I say sandwiched, I literally mean as squished as physically possible. You practically sit on your neighbors lap during your meal). When I say sore thumb, I don’t necessarily mean for appearance reasons (because I try to blend in, and I am successful most of the time) but in the sense that I could not pronounce the limited French I knew, with the same grace and ease as those around me.  

He had been insisting for the last few months, that I improve my French. That I must step out of my comfort zone and dive head first. Which yes, it is true, I needed to. However, I was not expecting that head first dive to happen in such a public setting. T took it upon himself to jump start my Improvement in French, by refraining from speaking in English to me. He did that ‘adorable’ (hence the sarcasm) thing where he pretended to not understand me when I would respond in English. He had preformed a similar act back before this outing, when meeting my mother and sister for the first time. Although in that situation, he ended the game rather quickly. Here, he was determined to force me. Which may have led to a very quiet table. It would have been one thing, had we been somewhere less public, let alone sitting within touching distance of a dozen native French ears-who were bound to hear my butchered French very easily. I know he didn’t do it to be mean, his intentions were never out of meanness. They may come across as harsh or direct at times, but he always is doing it with the best of intentions.  

Siting here now, tonight, with only a week left of being here; I can almost transport myself back to that night.  

The night that was supposed to be the last night we saw one another. The night he ate a huge hamburger, ordered wine for the both of us (because he knows what he’s doing) and then walked to the sacré cœur. It was one of those nights that just happened. it wasn’t anything, it just was what it was.  
With my departure within a weeks time, I find myself mentally rewinding to all the places I’ve been, or am currently at. I am constantly revisiting memories of certain areas, cafes, or walks had. I am taking my trip down memory lane while I am still technically walking down, ‘memory lane’. It’s a weird spot to be in. To be leaving a life, people, places that feel so engraved in you now. Not knowing when, or if you’ll return. While trying to remain in the moment, taking it all in, while also appreciating all the moments had up until now.  
Then and now, now and then. Some things seem drastically different in comparison to those first few months. While at the same time, it feels like only yesterday, I arrived wide eyed and ready for new experiences.  
It’s a bittersweet feeling, visiting places you’ve been before, knowing you probably won’t return.  Comparing what happened then at the places you once were at, in comparison to now.  Who you are with, where your mindset is at and so on.  

Sweet, because it’s lovely to have been able to have these memories, and experiences to rewind to.  

    
   

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Continuing to learn the lay of the land 

I’ve determined that 15 months is still not a sufficient amount of time to learn all the ins and outs of a place, a culture, a history.  Some may roll their eyes and think ‘duh Hannah’ but I am surprised at how many things I still am managing to learn on a daily basis.  
For instance, I was not given a hand guide to the types of names in France. Apparently there are certain names that represent a certain type of person.  For instance, if you were to meet someone back home named something like Sebastien – you may giggle to yourself at how proper it sounds.  Apparently one of the French names that deem that same response, is Baudouin. I wasn’t aware of this.  No one informed me, and I had not came across any of them until my last couple months here.  
I find it both amusing, and interesting, similarities my homeland and France share.  Like having preconceived notions attached to certain names.  However, the names here are far more ‘posh’ and presumptuous some may say, so I can see the ease of making fun of certain names.  Most of the time, the jokes going along with names (such as baudouin) are spot on. 

-tennis player -country club -polo wearing – loafer wearing etc. 
I’m sad I won’t be able to continue learning this things that guide books can’t provide.  The only way to learn them is to be here, right in the middle of it all.  Going on dates with some guy you met in an Irish bar, named Baudouin- only to later get made fun of by a non-Baudouin.  

I’ll miss this. 

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