Tuesday, October 6, 2015

church, the metro, and being a student once again

Has it really been 5 days since my last post? I can't believe how fast the days are going. Probably feels that way because I'm still trying to get my routine down, and on top of that trying to put myself out there so I can make some friends. I feel like I have so much to update everyone on, that I'm not even sure where to begin. I guess the biggest things that have happened over the last few days have been making friends, attending the church for the first time, mastering the metro, and starting language school.

On Friday night, The Bridge (the church I started a few days later) was having a ladies night out. Even though I hadn't started going to the church yet, I was invited to come. I'm so happy I went. I made some new friends, one that actually just moved to Paris from DC a week before I did with her husband and kids. There were probably around 16 of us that were there Friday night, so I was able to meet a lot of new, friendly faces. It was refreshing and I needed it really bad. I know that at that point, I had only been in Paris for 6 days, but there are only so many amazing places you can visit alone before you think...I wish I had someone to share this with. So I really had to put myself out there and find ways to meet people. 

Saturday, I went to Versailles for the day. I spent several hours just walking around the gardens because it was such a beautiful day. It was pretty crowded, so I didn't go inside the palace or visit anywhere outside of the main gardens. I finally got to use my new amazing camera, and I took tons of pictures. I'll be posting them to Facebook soon, along with some others from my time here so far.

Sunday was my first day at The Bridge International Church. It's small and intimate, and I really enjoyed it. I sat in the back row (which is not far from the front since it is pretty small), and I wasn't prepared for my emotions to come bubbling to the surface. It was at that point that I realized just how drained and exhausted I am. Since my last day of work on September 18th, I have not stopped moving. My brain has been continuously occupied with some errand or task, and I don't even have time to appreciate completing something before I have to focus on something else. I feel like my last day of work was 2 months ago, not a mere 2 weeks and some change. So there I am, in the back row, trying to hide my wet eyes throughout the service. I feel like I haven't been in church in ages, when in reality there had only been one Sunday I missed between my last day at GCC and starting at The Bridge. But for that 1 hour I felt at home. I felt like I belonged somewhere. I know I said this in my last post, but it can't be said enough. The Christian community is a family, and no matter what city or country you're in, you all have at least 1 thing in common. I've never seen any other group be able to meet one another for the first time and it's like instant friendship. The church is a refuge and safe haven, and just being around those who have the same beliefs and same hope can just bring so much comfort, especially when I feel like a fish out of water in such a different environment. We happened to take communion on Sunday as well, and it was just one more reminder that whether it was my first day or not at the church, we are still one body of believers. After church, I ended up meeting 2 other really nice girls that weren't at the ladies night out on Friday. I even had lunch with one of them, which led to my first Paris restaurant experience (I had brunch...freaking amazing pancakes with fresh fruit).  

Conquering the metro has probably been my biggest accomplishment so far. It only took me a few days to really get the hang of it, and I've already given directions (correct ones) or told some poor guy today how to use his metro ticket. I'm actually really fortunate, because my host family pays for my transportation. Instead of getting a metro ticket every day, I have a monthly Navigo pass that allows me to use any of the 3 railways, the RER, Metro, and Train, as much as I want. 

Usually, you have to pay a different amount for each zone you want to travel, and which railway you want to use. So this card lets me not only come and go as I please, but I have to say I feel like a local when I scan in and out instead of putting in a ticket each time. I've gotten used to the longer commutes and switching from RER to Metro back to RER and so on. It's definitely a different way of life having to walk and use the railways instead of driving a car and being at my destination in 15 minutes. But it's been fun, and to be honest, being able to ride right to some amazing museum or monument is pretty incredible. 

My thoughts on each type of railway would be that the Metro is the lowest on the scale in terms of how nice and clean they are. It's basically your typically subway that makes the most frequent stops. Today was particularly crowded and hot since it was really only my second time riding during rush hour. The Metro only runs within the boundaries of Paris. The Train, at least the one I was on, was a step above the Metro, and goes the greatest distances to allow the far out commuters a way into the city. And then the RER, my favorite and the station closest to me, have the nicest and newest cars. It goes into Paris, fewer stops than the Metro, but goes to the closer suburbs as well. All in all, I don't mind the system and it has been fun learning how to use it. And of course, highly satisfying now that I'm a total pro.

Yesterday, I started my language courses. Long story short, there was an issue with my school and originally I was supposed to join the au pair classes that allow for shorter hours during the week. It was only supposed to be 6 hours of classroom time with 4 hours of homework throughout the week. There were some registration issues, and I didn't actually have a spot secured when I arrived. After going to talk to them, I was able to get into an intensive type program where I go 15 hours a week from 9-12 Monday through Friday, with 5 hours of homework during the week. It's a bit more expensive, but they cut me a bit of a deal since I was in a bind. I actually have to leave class halfway through on Wednesdays so I can pick up G at 11:30. I'm actually thankful though, because that means I will get more classroom time. I really love my teacher, and there are some cool people in my class. It's pretty small. I am 1 of 3 Americans, and there are also 4 or 5 nuns, and a few other people. The class size is pretty small, but I love it because the teacher makes sure everyone participates. Today went well and I was much more prepared than yesterday. But let me back up and talk about my first day. So I drop of G at 8:20 and class starts at 9. I was told late on Friday that they had a spot for me in this class, but I didn't know if I would be able to leave early Wednesday to pick up G. So I went in not knowing if I'd actually be able to stay and attend the class, which actually started last Monday. But everything was fine, and I was able to stay. I walk in, and the teacher introduced everyone to me by name and home country. She uses worksheets to teach the class, which are super helpful, but my first 30 minutes or so were quite intimidating. The teacher, of course, is speaking only in French. From the time I walked in, through introductions, all of it....French. If she can tell you are really on the struggle bus, she'll quickly explain something in English, then it's back to French. But I'll be honest, I was sitting there feeling so out of my element. I actually thought of the look my friend Kristy Clark would have on her face if she was in that room and laughed to myself, which lightened my mood a bit. Kristy will be the first to tell you that she has this complete inability to follow along with any heavy accents, and she has no poker face. I'm laughing right now again picturing her in that room (love you Kristy :D). 

It didn't take long though for me to feel comfortable, and today I came prepared with a notepad and pen as well as a snack since I was starving by the time class was over yesterday. I actually really like how much time I will get to be there, and I like the people in there. Having to factor class in has finally given me more of a set schedule and routine that I can rely on now. Last week, I was still learning how to take care of G and also didn't know what my class schedule would be like (or if I'd even be able to get a spot at the school for that matter). So things are finally settling down. I'll be interested to see how things are within a month or two. It's been a really incredible experience so far, and I've really enjoyed meeting people from all nationalities and walks of life. It's definitely an adjustment, and there are many American comforts I miss. On Sunday, I would have given anything to just be in my own home in my own living room relaxing and able to just have some peace and quiet. But knowing how limited my time is here in the grand scheme of things means that I'm going to enjoy it while it lasts and try to live as local as I can between now and the time I leave. The family only needs me for the duration of the school year, so technically I will only be here with this family until July. Seems like a long time, but time already feels like it's flying. 

Alright, I have homework and I have to pick up G in an hour and take him to soccer, so that's all for now!