Sunday, October 11, 2015

the honest truth about the last 2 weeks

Hello my friends. I’m coming to you today from a quiet little corner of Jardin du Tuleries. It’s a lovely fall day, so I thought I’d write outside.

So let’s get real. I’m not one for sugarcoating the truth, and in the interest of keeping this record of my journey here in Paris as authentic as possible, there are going to be times when my updates are not warm and fuzzy. This is one of those times.

Before I came, I had a realistic expectation of what my transition was going to be like. Yes, I was (and am) excited to be moving to Paris, but as I said in one of my first posts, I’m expecting hard days. I’m expecting the culture shock. I’m expecting to cry. And well, I’m here at the 2 week mark and all of that has been true. Let me first talk about the difficult things, but I do have some good things to talk about as well.

One of the first questions I am asked about my host family is “Are they nice?” The answer is yes, they are nice. However, I can tell they like their space and that they want me to have a social life outside of the home. This is obviously not a bad thing, because I know the family needs their time together. But I feel pretty in the way most of the time, not like a part of the family. Maybe this will change with time. But the other side of the coin is that as much as I do not regret becoming an au pair, I do regret that I didn’t do this when I was younger instead of as a 29 year old. I own my own house in Virginia, have lived alone for several years, had a safe haven and place to call my own, and a place to relax at the end of a stressful day. Now, I am in tight quarters with a family, the only “me” space is my bedroom, and I’m sharing a bathroom with 3 other people. The only shower in the house is in the parent’s bedroom, so I can’t even shower while they are home, which means I typically shower in the middle of the day after I get home from classes and before I pick up G. I don’t feel like I have a home, because well….I don’t. I have a place I’m staying, but I don’t have a place that is mine. I know it’s not forever, so I can deal with it until July when G’s school year is over. But only being 2 weeks in, it’s definitely already difficult. There are no locks on the bedroom doors, and G likes to sometimes just walk in when I’m doing homework or something. I also feel like I have to tiptoe around, and it’s just difficult feeling like you don’t really belong in someone’s home.

All of this would be better if my relationship with G was more solid. The kid is sweet, but he also has a sour side. I can never tell if it’s my fault, or if he just doesn’t like me, or what his problem is sometimes. Like Thursday, he was so sweet. We got home, he wanted me to draw with him so I did, I made him dinner which he liked, then we watched tv and he wanted to play marbles with me so we did that until his mom got home. Then later, when I was in my room doing my homework, he came in, got some pictures with me on my computer and was just hanging out all sweet. I thought I was making progress and he was starting to get used to me. Then yesterday, I pick him up from school, and immediately I can tell he’s in a pissy mood. I try to ask if he is tired, and instead of answering, he just yells at me in French correcting my crappy pronunciation. We walked back to the house in silence, I made him dinner and got a thumbs up that it was good, but then he didn’t say much. This morning, I come downstairs to plug in the phone the family gave me (which has a communal charger in the middle of the living room and it dies way too fast…super irritating), and when I say hello, he doesn’t even acknowledge me. Instead, he starts yelling to his mom, and I hear my name, and I have no idea what I’ve done in the 10 seconds I’ve been downstairs. She comes over and sees me and is trying to figure out what he’s saying. She tells me it’s something about the charger, then she looks at him, then looks at me and tells me I’m fine to plug in my phone. I guess he was pissed I was using the charger (which was not being used to charge his iPad at the moment). I mean wtf kid? Then I quickly get ready so I can just get the heck out of the house and for whatever reason leaving was so awkward when I said goodbye to the family.

I have this anxiety that if G doesn’t like me then I’ll be fired or something, but I don’t think that’s allowed with my contract. Or maybe it is? I have no idea. I don’t understand how I can be so good with kids, but for some reason this kid seems to be hot and cold. I also have started to dislike taking him or picking him up from school, because he will start talking about me to his friends and I get the distinct feeling the kid is talking trash. Maybe it’s in my head. But body language speaks pretty loudly. It’s frustrating and disheartening, especially when I live under the same roof. I don’t want the parents to think I’m doing something wrong, but in reality they will probably believe what he tells them.

Maybe it’s worse in my head. But I can’t understand any of them when they speak to each other in front of me, so it’s like I’m standing there not knowing what G is saying. I swear I’m not doing anything to piss this kid off, he is just….I don’t even know. I can’t even explain. The one thing that is keeping me mentally grounded is reminding myself that I feel completely where the Lord wants me. I don’t know what I’m supposed to be learning from all of this or what He’s going to do, but I really don’t feel like I’m somehow in the wrong place. I just wish things would start getting better with G. Waiting for the train this morning, I started tearing up on the platform just completely overwhelmed and feeling like I don’t have a place to call home and feeling like the 1 kid I have in my care doesn’t even like me.

On the upside, I have loved living in Paris. I have made a lot of new friends just this week, and got to go out for the first time last night with a friend from my French class. We hit up a bar in the 5th arrondissement (which are districts, there are 20 total within the city borders) called Le Violon Dingue. It was a pretty chill bar, and actually run by English-speaking expats.

What I really love and am starting to feel more comfortable doing is heading out by myself if I don’t have anyone to meet up with. I don’t want to spend my time at the house or in my room, so I have to find things to do at all times. This morning, I decided to head to a restaurant I found on Pinterest before I left the States called HolyBelly up in the 10th arrondissement. It’s an English-speaking place, and I set out for it to have brunch by myself. I felt a little awkward at first, because it was packed when I got there and the only single seat was at a long table that multiple parties could sit at. I was right in the middle and felt super out of place, but I sucked it up and just ordered coffee and food. The coffee was amazing, and this cheered me up. I pulled out the book I brought with me (tons of people usually have a book in hand in this city on the metro or wherever) and just read until my food came. Oh my word…the food. Holy amazingness in my belly. Pancakes with 2 eggs sunny side up on top of it with bacon and maple syrup. Eggs on top of pancakes? Oh yes….and it was freaking incredible. After a few bites, part of the table cleared up, so I moved down to the end to feel less awkward. This older couple sat down next to me, and after a while a girl about my age came in alone and sat across from me. When she ordered, I could tell she was American, so I started chatting with her, then the couple next to us started chatting with us too. They are in Paris because the husband works for the government and has a 2 year post over here. The girl my age works for a wine company and is here for 6 months. I actually had a really good time just chatting with them. I ended up staying for about an hour and a half, and we all swapped stories of where we’ve been so far, and I got some good tips on what else to check out in the city. This is the part of my trip that I really love. You really have no idea who you are going to meet and where, but once you find another expat, it’s super easy to just strike up a conversation because they are in the same boat. They all encouraged me with my rough couple of days with G as well and told me that he’ll get over it and things will get better. That turned my day around.

Yesterday, my normal train was down and it will be down for the next couple of days. When I started to take my normal trip home, I was in the La Défense station and the train was docked, but not moving and the lights were off. However, there were some people sitting inside, so I got on in case it started to go. Then there was an announcement over the intercom, of course in French, and people started filing off the train. Alright, I guess this means I should follow too. I get back onto the platform, and this super tall guy about my age comes up to me and asks “Parlez-vous anglais?” “Yes.” “Oh, you’re not French.” “Nope, was kind of hoping you’d know what was going on.” So we walk over to some station workers and can’t find out any info. Since we are headed in the same direction, we went together to find an alternate route home. We get to talking, and turns out he’s from Australia and is moving back in a month. I jokingly asked about his wardrobe choice since he was in spandex shorts and had clearly just been working out in the middle of Paris when his stop was so far out of the city. “Oh you know…I just love awkwardly walking through Paris like this.” About an hour later and a couple of metro switches, we end up at Saint Lazare station, which is huge and really beautiful, and has trains that go past the closer suburbs of Paris. Looks like these are the only trains I can take until the RER is up and running again. Super annoying because it’s so far out of the way, but what can you do. After all of that, he ended up inviting me to hang out tonight with him and his other Aussie friends that came into town today. We’ll see if it happens, but all that to say, I love how often I meet new people here. Not only new people, but people from literally everywhere around the world. There’s a few girls in my French classes I’ve become friends with, and one of which is from Columbia. There’s no shortage of topics to discuss since everyone I meet has such different stories and they come from all walks of life. This is what I hoped Paris would be, and is has not disappointed me. I wanted to meet new people, see the world from other points of view, and just put myself out there and be spontaneous and I’ve had so many opportunities to do that and it’s only been 1 week since I made my first friends.
After my last paragraph, I packed up my stuff and headed to meet my friend J and her friend A at a cute little place called Saint Augustine. My first sidewalk café experience. After a while, they invited me along with their friends to a wine festival up in Montmartre right outside the Sacré-Cœur Basilica and its surrounding streets. It was fun, and the view of Paris at night from up there was super pretty. But it was crazy crowded. Annoyingly crowded. But we got some food and wine and chatted for a while, then headed out.

Overall, it has been a really fun day. Tomorrow, I have no idea how I’m going to make it to church since the RER A is not running. I haven’t tried the bus system yet and I haven’t even attempted to find out how it works. That might be my only option though.

Well, that’s all I’ve got for now. Feel free to pray for me and G to bond because that’s pretty much the thing that makes or breaks my mood for the day. I know that overall this experience will be the best of my life, but not having my own space and everything else I’ve already said are making it hard. However, after meeting so many au pairs lately, I can honestly tell you that I have it so good, even with everything I’ve already said. Many I’ve talked to ended up switching families or want to switch families because they are treated so poorly. So at least my situation isn’t that bad. I just want to feel like I’m belong here, not like I’m a rude house guest.

Anyway, enjoy the rest of your weekend everyone. J