Thursday, March 24, 2011

To study ou pas?

To study or not to study?  This is a question I have been asking myself and debating about for a year now, and I'm no closer to making the decision now than I was when I first asked myself the question.  As is quite obvious from my birthday freak out, I desperately want and need to change careers before I go insane.  But the question is, should I go back to school (and put myself through the miserable torture that is the French educational system) or should I just keep looking and trying and hoping that something comes around?

The background:  I have a Bachelors and a Masters that I earned in the US, both in French language and literature.  Basically as soon as I finished my Masters I headed off to France to be an English assistant so that Lionel and I would have the opportunity to live together and see if our long distance relationship could work.  Since then, we got married and I found myself in France with little to help me find a job here (who in France really needs someone who studied French language and literature???).  With little work experience (we're talking mostly stores and restaurants in high school and throughout college, and a lot of interesting volunteer work that apparently counts for absolutely nothing here) and basically worthless degrees granted by *gasp* American universities, I struggled for 9 months to find a job, and finally settled for English teaching out of financial desperation and because of lack of any other options or offers.  Since I gave in to the evils of being an English teacher in Paris, I have continued to look for other jobs, to no avail.  All I managed to find was another English teaching job (which fell into my lap) with better pay and better conditions that has basically permitted me to put up with teaching a little longer.  But now I'm at my wits end and I've gotta change before I go crazy or become seriously depressed.

So, for a year now I've been researching and debating the idea of going back to school.  The reasons I don't necessarily want to do it are: I hate the French school system; it makes me very angry that I would be able to get a good job in the US with my degrees and experiences, but that this country makes it extremely difficult and I really thought I was done with school when I finished my Masters, unless one day I decided to go back and get a PhD (in the US, of course); I can't decide what exactly to study; I feel like I'll be putting my future, happier career on hold for another 2 years, which frustrates me; and Lionel and I can't afford to have me not working, so I'll definitely have to continue with some sort of English teaching while I study in order for us to survive financially without emptying our hard earned savings accounts.  But I also know that going back to some sort of school in France is probably the only way I'm going to be sure to get out of English teaching, and since it doesn't seem like Lionel and I will be packing up to head back to the US (unfortunately) any time soon, I have to get myself a better life going in France or I will never be happy.

I've been considering a number of different options.  I've looked at the idea of a BTS Tourisme, but I'll have to get over the little bit of pride I have left since having moved to this country in order to go all the way back down to a BTS.  I also considered a BTS Secrétariat, but I just cannot possibly justify going to secretary school (what do they even learn???) and I don't really dream about becoming a secretary.  It's just a job I thought I would be able to find easily here in Paris since I speak English and French.  Unfortunately that didn't really work out.  I've also been looking into a number of different Masters programs at the different universities here in Paris.  They all follow the same general theme of histoire, culture, patrimoine, gestion du patrimoine and I've looked at at least 5 such similar programs which all eventually lead to the hope of a job in tourisme culturel, métiers de tourisme, métiers de patrimoine, etc.  These are all things that I would be very interested in and would love to do, but is it realistic?  Can an American get a job in the secteur du patrimoine français?  Tourism, I'm sure, is more realistic at least.  And do I really want to put myself through all that schooling?  Again?  Another Masters (because I'm realistic enough to know that I will never get into a PhD program in France with an American Masters)?  And then what if things change and we decide to go back to the US after all that?  It would basically be for nothing.

So, this is where I have been stuck for nearly a year.  Not at all sure what I should do, but knowing that I need to do something.  And I don't really have anyone to talk to about it because Lionel just thinks I'm ridiculous to be considering a return to school.  But sometimes I don't think he's very realistic.  Any suggestions???

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Guess my latest rant just didn't measure up...

This just in from Keith's A Taste of Garlic:

"Rant of the Week Award!
The battle for the coveted Rant of the Week Award went all the way to the line when a late entry by MilkJam on the joys of unemployment narrowly beat Michele at michele’s life in franglais who was complaining that I’m getting vielle

MilkJam won the award because, after all, she is on the rock and roll right now and Michele is just getting ancient.And fancy them picking up that you’re not qualified to speak American, MilkJam!
Michele, don’t feel too bad about missing out to MilkJam.
After all, you’re only 28 and there’s no need to get depressed and down in the dumps about it. You’ve probably got another couple of years or so before you get REALLY OLD and things start drooping to your knees or falling off!"

Looks like my rant just wasn't good enough!  Honestly, I'm so dissappointed that I can't decide if I should rant about it, or just try harder the next time.  I do have a ranty blog post or two that I've been working on for a while, one of which I started almost a year ago...perhaps I can get back in the competition and win that award soon!!!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

I'm getting vieille

Well, it's official.  I'm 28.  Yesterday was my birthday.  I just keep getting older, and I really don't like it.  It was fine when I was younger, trying to hit that ever-important 21, and it was even ok up until 25.  But since 25 it just keeps getting more and more depressing.  And now I'm 28, two years to 30, and what have I got to show for myself?  Not much in my opinion.

Sure, I live in France, next to Paris (practically every Americans' dream), but I'm not particularly happy about it.  As a result I work a job I HATE and as each year goes by I wonder when I'm going to get to start my career.  You could argue that, as an English teacher, I have started my career.  But I'm not talking about just any old career, but MY career, the one that I WANT to do, the one that makes me happy.  I want a job that I enjoy.  I'm sick of dreading going to bed every night because that just means morning will come and I'm tired of literally forcing myself out of bed every morning knowing that the day is just going to bring the misery of teaching some more stupid, pointless English lessons.  I can't stand the fact that the only thing that gets me through each and every week is the fact that the weekend will come and that the only time I feel even remotely happy is on the weekend, yet I still manage to spoil half of the weekend thinking about work. 

Basically, I just thought that by 28 I would have started my career.  I would be done doing jobs I didn't like (or in this case truly hate) and I would be doing something that made me happy, regardless of the amount of money earned.  Instead, yesterday I realized that I am still in a thankless job that makes me more and more miserable every day and I find myself actually longing for the days of pizza delivery when I was in school.  Perhaps it's not the best job in the world, but I sure was much happier when I was doing it and I didn't feel depressed every day of my life.

Maybe my expectations were just too high.  I thought that if I worked hard, got the degrees, got good grades and dedicated myself to different projects that I would be assured of having a good career by this time.  Of course, I had never factored a move to France into my equation, but I can't imagine that this country is all that is holding me back.  So what is my problem?  Why do I feel like my life is so much more of a failure at 28 than at 22 or 23 or 25 even?  I mean I live in France, I'm married, I have a nice (by Paris standards) apartment, I have an adorable cat, I have friends (of course, most of them reside in the US), I have enough money to live decently (though not extravagantly by any means, but we aren't in the poorhouse either).  But for some reason, with all of that, my life at 28 feels incomplete and I know it is the career that is missing. 

Most of my friends in the US are already well established in their chosen careers and I have nothing but a job I despise.  And now that I'm almost 30, I'm really starting to feel that all hope of starting my career is gone, that I will still be dragging myself through metro tunnels and around Paris lugging a heavy Longchamp full of books to various companies 20 years from now, and that is a future that makes me feel sick.

I know I never really seem to be that positive about France and about living in France, and I think that the biggest reason why I'm always depressed and down in the dumps about my life here is my job.  But who knows, perhaps today I'm down because of getting older, but maybe 28 is when my career will really start.

And, on the slightly brighter side, though we didn't do anything special for my birthday yesterday because I was gone for work from 8am-8pm, Lionel did at least get me some flowers:


And he claims there will eventually (maybe this weekend) be a present, which I'm guessing will either be a new Longchamp since my old one is definitely feeling the pain of lugging those books around Paris, or a Blackberry.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Sous-préfecture fun

Well, that time of year has come again, the time when I must begin the loooong process of renewing my titre de séjour.  Technically I was late starting the process this year (about one week later than normal) because of my friend's visit, and I just couldn't justify spending less time with her to drag myself to the sous-préfecture to once again renew my temporary, one year titre de séjour vie privée et familiale that I personally think should be valid for longer anyway.

So, on Monday I forced myself to get up early even though I didn't have work and to head over to the sous-préfecture de l'Häy-les-Roses.  As usual, upon arrival, I was greeted by the very long line for the Bureau des Etrangers winding through the building, and then outside and into the parking lot (because they can't be bothered to find more space so us foreigners don't have to stand outside in the freezing cold, rain, etc.).  Luckily though, Monday was a pretty nice day, so it wasn't as miserable as it could have been.

As usual I got into line, trying to calculate about how long it would be until I got to the welcome window and could ask my ONE very basic question and get out of there.  Since the line looked about as long as usual, and, last year at least, I had been having quite a bit of luck, I calculated about 2 hours of standing around a waiting till it was my turn.  Then I whipped out my Kindle and settled in to read Pride and Prejudice (for the millionth time), hoping that this would be the time that the line moved really fast.

Unfortunately, I was in for a big and unpleasant surprise...my calculations were quite wrong and this time the line took 3 hours!  I think that is the longest I have ever had to wait just to get to the accueil.  And to make it worse, about 5 minutes after I arrived, a woman with her baby got in line behind me and so I got to spend those three hours listening to her kid cry while he kept trying to kick me in the legs.  Fun stuff.

When it was FINALLY my turn, I tried to put on my happy face and look like I hadn't just spent the last three hours in the line from hell with an irritating child and the mom from hell preventing me from at least being able to really enjoy Pride and Prejudice.  I told the not-smiling (big surprise there) and self-important fonctionnaire that I was there because I needed to renew my titre de séjour and thus I needed an appointment to come back with Lionel and hand in my papers.  She pulled out the appointment book, grabbed the all-important appointment sheet and wrote down my appointment date and time: June 28.  WTF?  Three and a half months later???  Is this what I get for coming in about a week later than normal?  Last year I went at the beginning of March and had an appointment for the end of May.  Not to mention my titre de séjour expires June 1.  But she promptly reassured me that, as long as I was carrying the all-important appointment sheet that showed I had made the appointment before the expiration date on my card, I would be fine and they couldn't kick me out.

And then off I went to catch a bus home and continue with my day.  Three hours in line for 2 minutes at the window and I walk away with a date to come back 3.5 months later.  Looks like in about 5 months I will have my new card.  Thankfully next year I get to apply for the 10 year card and I won't have to deal with the stupidity of having to go to renew every year!

However, on Sunday, I discovered something that made me even more irritated about this whole process.  I live in the Val de Marne and am therefore under the Préfecture de Val de Marne located in Créteil.  However, because I live in the KB I have to go to one of the Sous-préfectures.  This therefore means that I do not get treated like a person who goes to the Préfecture.  If you live in  a town that goes to the Préfecture in Créteil, they now have this fancy online system to sign up for your appointment to renew the titre de séjour vie privée et familiale so that you don't have to go and wait in a long line (as well as add to that line) just to get your appointment to come back.  But, since I go to the sous-préfecture, I do not have this luxury and I have to suffer through a three hour line for nothing basically.  Seems to me like they should have rolled out the new system for all the offices so that everyone can benefit!  I really would have appreciated not having to wait in that line and having been able to make my appointment online, with the internet, since we are in the 21st century and all!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Continued genius of La Poste

As a quick follow up to my most recent problems with the French post office, we have received more information about the Christmas package my friend Lindsay tried to send me.  As I said in my last post, Lindsay requested an inquiry into the location of the package since she hasn't received it back in the US and I haven't received it either.  The US Postal Service told her it would take France about 17 days to complete the inquiry but if she hadn't heard anything in 24 days, to call for information.  So she finally called after 24 days and was told that the inquiry was complete and that they had come back with the following response: "We never delivered the package."

WTF???  No information on where said package might be or on what might have happened to it.  Just that they hadn't delivered the package.  Well, so glad it took France 24 days and who knows how much money to figure out what I could have told them a couple of months ago!  So looks like my package is officially MIA and I'll never get my Christmas present and neither will that cat!  Thanks a lot La Poste for such efficient service!

Not to mention my aunt and uncle just got the Christmas card they sent me back in the mail last week.  I'm starting to wonder if La Poste has blacklisted me...it sure would explain all the ridiculous problems I've had with them in the past 6 months:  my bank account, my Christmas package, my Christmas card, a package magically appearing IN my mailbox and the return of our taxes (they returned our tax form to us after we sent it on time to pay our taxes, therefore making us pay late because the form shifted and they couldn't see the address in the envelope window, so they peeled back the envelope to find the sender's address to return it to us instead of peeling it back to find the address of the destinataire or instead of just recognizing the very obvious tax form envelope that they certainly know well as they certainly deal with millions of them every year and just sending it on to the evil tax collectors).  Oh, La Poste, you are one of my biggest enemies in France!!!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Fun with my US friend

It feels like forever since I've written, and it has been.  I was so busy with my friend, Michelle's, visit that I didn't really have a chance to post.  But I had a great visit with her...we did some site seeing in Paris, relaxed a bit and went to Croatia and Slovenia together for a 5 day weekend.

Here in Paris we visited the Square Louis XVI, walked around, rode the ferris wheel at Place de la Concorde, went to Montmartre, saw the Moulin Rouge, had wine along the Seine, went to Bercy Village, and a few other little activities around the city as was possible around my work schedule.

Chapelle expiatoire at the Square Louis XVI (metro St. Augustin, square on Blvd. Haussmann).  The chapelle marks the place where Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette were originally buried for about 20 years until their remains were moved to the royal burial site at the Basilique St. Denis.

Michelle and I on the ferris wheel

view of the Eiffel Tower from the ferris wheel

The first weekend she was here we headed off for our 5 day visit of Croatia and Slovenia, which was amazing.  We flew into Zagreb, picked up our rental car and then drove to the Croatian coast (in our Audi! on the fabulous, empty Croatian highways!) where we visited Pula, Rovinj and Porec.  We spent 2 days on the coast, then we drove back to Zagreb, dropped off the car and spent the afternoon visiting the city before we hopped our train to Ljubljana, Slovenia. 

Porec, Croatia

Porec, Croatia

Pula, Croatia

Roman amphitheater in Pula, Croatia and Michelle with our rental Audi

Rovinj, Croatia

Rovinj, Croatia

Zagreb Cathedral

Zagreb, Croatia

In Slovenia we visited Ljubljana, which is a beautiful, absolutely magical little city and I highly recommend it.  We also took a trip out to Lake Bled, about an hour outside of Ljubljana to visit the famous lake with the church on an island in a middle and Bled castle overlooking it all.  It was beautiful, but unfortunately the weather wasn't on our side, and so our photos are all very misty and gray.  Surprisingly we had no travel problems whatsoever, not even a delayed easyjet flight and overall the trip was wonderful and I definitely want to go back to Croatia and Slovenia some day to see some more.

Ljubljana, Slovenia and the Triple Bridge

Ljubljana, Slovenia

Ljubljana Castle sitting above the city

main square and Ljubljana Cathedral at night

Bled Castle and Bled city along Lake Bled, Slovenia

Lake Bled, Slovenia, shrouded by mist

church on the island in the middle of Lake Bled

Michelle just left to head back to the US this past week.  It was really nice to see her and to spend some time with a friend from back home, to catch up on all the news with my friends in the US and to just spend some time with someone I've known almost my entire life.  But now that she's gone, it's back to the real world, my miserable job, and life in stupid Paris.  Tomorrow I have to drag myself to the stupid sous-préfecture to start the process of once again renewing my temporary carte de séjour vie privée et familiale, so I'm sure I'll have lots to say about that soon.  And in 2 weeks I have another friend from the US coming out to visit for a week, so that will be great.  We are going to head down to Tours for a weekend to revisit the city where we first met and studied together for the first year of our MAs, so it should be fun.  But until then, I'm just readjusting to normal life and trying to look for a new, better job outside the field of English teaching before I go insane!