Thursday, September 29, 2011

I'm free!!!

I just finished my last day of work, and I couldn't be happier!  I'm free!  But it still hasn't entirely set in that I will never have to go back to that job again.

I mailed the books the lent me back to my boss Monday and put my final pay sheet in the mail this evening after my last lesson.  Everything is done, and I don't ever even have to think about this job again. 

I'm leaving for Oktoberfest tonight, but when I get back from Germany I plan to throw away all my old lesson plans/articles/files etc. and I think that is when it will really hit me that I am no longer a business English teacher and that I will never have to be one again!  Though my boss did promise me that if we ever came back to France I could just call her up and have my job back...and as she said this, the thought that went through my mind was "no way in hell!"  I plan to sell the other English books that I have and to delete everything English-teaching related from my life and never look back!

It feels so good, and yet hardly believable!  Freedom!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

La guerre des Post-Its

This morning, as I was drinking my coffee before heading off to work, I stumbled upon an article on cnn.com about Post-It wars raging in Paris.  Curious, I clicked on the link to read the article and discovered a surprisingly fun battle happening in some of Paris' biggest companies in La Defense and Issy-les-Moulineaux:  apparently employees are having post-it wars.  They are making huge designs out of post-its on their companies windows so everyone can see, everything from cartoon characters to messages to rocket ships.  The largest one is 7 stories tall using thousands of post-its!  And the companies are generally in favor of this war, seeing it as a good team building exercise (not to mention the Post-It company is certainly enjoying it!).  To read more about it, click this link, or to view photos of the different images, click here.

So, on my way to work this morning at les Sablons, I looked up at the building of the company I teach in, and was very surprised, only an hour after reading the CNN article, to find this, staring back at me:
sorry the photo is so bad, it was on my cell phone, but click to enlarge

Yoda in Post-Its saying "may the Post-Its be with you" next to it!

Who knew the French worker bees could have so much fun!  Do you know anyone participating in the Post-It war????

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Details on the move

***Warning: very long post ahead!

First of all, I finally managed to get around to responding to everyone’s nice comments and words of encouragement on my last post about the move. I really appreciate it!

So, to go more into detail about the move, we are officially leaving France on November 20. We are ending work at the end of September, and we have to be out of our apartment at the end of October. A lot of people have asked me what we are going to do in October and November if we aren’t working. Well, for the first few weeks of November, before we leave, we will be staying at my inlaws in La Teste de Buch and spending some time with them and visiting with some of Lionel’s other family, as the majority of his aunts, uncles and cousins live in and around Bordeaux, as does his grandfather. So it will be very convenient. We might also go visit friends in Grenoble and Nice before we leave.

In October we have a very, very busy schedule. I have two American friends, Michelle and Lindsay, who are flying out from the US to visit for a last trip in Europe together and to fulfill their dream of going to Oktoberfest. Originally Lionel and I had been talking about getting a group of his friends and a group of my friends together to all go to Oktoberfest as a kind of farewell party/weekend, but everyone bailed out at the last minute except for my two friends from the States. So we will be driving out to Munich as soon as I finish work to do Oktoberfest and a couple of days of travel in Germany. Then we come back to Paris and Lindsay leaves, and Michelle and I are off to Poland for a few days because I absolutely want to take advantage of as much European travel as possible before leaving France, since it’s one of the things that made me hesitate so much in the first place. I figure that travelling a lot before I go might help me feel better. During that time Lionel will be at home with the cat, spending time with the boys and trying to accommodate people who want to come and pick up furniture (since we are really hoping *fingers crossed* to sell most of it on Le Bon Coin, and don’t worry, I’m not leaving Lionel with all of the work, I’m in charge of preparing all the photos and descriptions of the furniture to put online). After we return from Poland we have Lionel’s visa interview (more details on that coming soon) and then my parents arrive.

My parents really wanted to come out and help us some with the move as well as have one last visit to France since they don’t know if they will ever be back here again. Since they have only really been to Paris (and a quick weekend in Arcachon), we are taking them to Normandy to visit Le Mont St. Michel and the Dday beaches and also to the south to see the Avignon area. When they leave they will be taking an extra 3-4 suitcases of our stuff with them, some carry ons of our stuff, and the little furball (because yes, he is making the move to the US as well!). We decided to have them take the cat because they are taking a direct flight and it would be easiest on the little guy, not to mention it will be easier for us to get everything taken care of with the apartment if we don’t have to constantly worry about a cat running around our feet and trying to escape out the front door. We will certainly miss him like crazy, but it is only for a month and a half (at least that is what I keep telling myself!).

Once my parents leave, Lionel’s parents will be coming up to Paris to help us finish with the apartment. We will have a little over a week to pack our remaining stuff, get rid of whatever furniture didn’t sell, clean the apartment and get out. Since my friends are each taking at least a suitcase of our stuff back and my parents are taking a lot as well, I’m trying not to be too worried about the packing. A lot of things will already be gone before we ever really begin the moving process. Then on October 31 we will hand over the keys and head south. Once at my inlaws we are going to deal with the last remaining administrative tasks such as sending letters to cancel cell phones, transferring our money to my US bank account, sending off our Freebox, transferring our bank accounts to La Teste and giving his parents power of attorney so they can deal with the bank for us if we ever need them to, and closing the bank accounts we don’t want to keep open. We will also spend a lot of time visiting with family and friends before leaving.

Finally, on November 19/20 we head to Barcelona with all our remaining belongings to catch our cruise! Yep, you read that right…CRUISE! We have decided to return to the US in style on a transatlantic cruise. After researching one way flights (WAY too expensive), and round trip flights (only to have to abandon the return trip) we found this transatlantic cruise that was much cheaper than anything else we could find at the time. Not to mention that we can bring a lot more luggage on the cruise, up to 200lbs per person in as many suitcases as we can fit in our room (and I plan to pile them up!), which saves us a ton of money on shipping costs. But this is another reason why we couldn’t bring Rasteau with us and we have to send him with my parents…animals aren’t allowed on the boat. Anyway, we are taking a 13-day cruise out of Barcelona, stopping in Alicante, Spain, Malaga, Spain, Madeira, the Canary Islands and finally arriving in Ft. Lauderdale. The time of the move and cruise actually falls perfectly as we are going to be able to celebrate our 3rd wedding anniversary and our 6th year as a couple while on the cruise. Once in Florida, my friend Amy is going to pick us up from our cruise and we are going to spend a few days with her before my wonderful father drives all the way down from Ohio to pick us and all our stuff up.

I am really hoping that with all the people who are taking things back for us, and with the extra luggage we can have on the cruise, that we will be able to avoid having to ship anything back to the US, but I won’t know for sure until my parents leave and I know what we have left to pack. I’m very stressed about this because I keep looking at all the things we have accumulated and all the things we want to bring and wondering how we will ever get it all over to the States. I’m also very stressed about the furniture because I really want to sell as much of it is possible since we just bought most of it only a year and a half ago when we moved into this apartment. We do have a few things that we have to throw away, but most of it is still in very good condition and it would be a shame not to be able to get any money for it. Rasteau’s trip is also stressing me out because I’m worried about him and I’m sure he is going to be terrified in the plane. However, I was very surprised by how easy it is to bring a cat to the US (more on that later). I just feel so guilty sending him with my parents to a place he doesn’t know with people he barely knows, but we didn’t have much of a choice. It was either that or spend a lot more money, and since we have to buy cars when we get to the US, that wasn’t really an option.

We are also very lucky to have family that is so willing to help. Lionel’s parents are helping a lot by coming to Paris to help us pack and clean, by letting us stay with them for so long, and by so generously volunteering to drive us to Barcelona for the cruise. And my parents are being absolutely amazing (mainly, I’m sure, because my mom doesn’t want to do anything that could dissuade me from moving to the US and she wants to do everything possible to make sure this move actually happens!). Not only are they flying out here and helping us bring back a lot of stuff, and a cat, but my dad is driving all the way to Florida to pick us up on the other end. Then they are letting us live with them until we get real jobs and are able to pay for an apartment without emptying our savings accounts. And on top of all that, as if it wasn’t enough, my dad is giving Lionel and I both jobs (nothing fancy…my old job that I did when I was in school…delivering pizzas for me and making pizzas for Lionel!) until we find real jobs. That way we are able earn some cash while job hunting, instead of spending our savings. I feel so blessed to have so many people willing to go to such lengths to help us…thank you everyone, we REALLY appreciate it!

Well, I think this post is long enough, and it covers most of the details of our move and the next few months in our lives (sorry it was so long and boring!). More to come later on the visa process and bringing a cat to the US, as well as stuff on all the trips, the actual moving process and whatever else strikes my fancy along the way!

Monday, September 19, 2011

4 years

I just realized today is my 4 year anniversary of being in France.  Four years ago I stepped off the plane, enchanted with this country after my 2 study abroad stints here, looking forward to an exciting year living with Lionel to see if our relationship could work when we actually weren't long distance and (though considerably less excited) ready to spend a year as an English language assistant here in Paris.

Clearly, Lionel and I worked out and I ended up staying here, fighting through all the ups and downs and twists and turns of living in Paris.  Now, 4 years later, I'm looking forward to the next chapter of my life which will begin in a few short months back in the US.

French frogs?

I was waiting for the metro the other day when I noticed a new poster out from the RATP, trying to encourage people not to jump the metro turnstiles because they risk being stopped by an RATP worker and paying a fine.  Only, on the poster they show an innocent French woman who is passing the turnstile with her ticket as she should, and then next to her a (presumably) French person next to her, represented by a frog, jumping the turnstile.

sorry for the horrible picture quality, I had to take it with my cell phone from
the opposite platform

I understand they wanted to choose an animal that is known for jumping to help get their point across, but did they really have to choose a frog?  I mean, the French stereotype right there on an RATP poster?  It made me laugh...

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Secret

Well, I’ve been a bit of a lazy blogger recently, but that is because I’ve been keeping a secret: Lionel and I are moving to the US. We’ve been talking about it since the end of April, and we finally made the decision (more like, I finally made my decision) at the end of May.

So, why has it taken me so long to say something about it? I guess it’s because I’m still not sure how I feel about the move. And that shocks me. After all this time being unhappy and complaining about France, I should be thrilled about moving to the US, but instead, I’m still not sure how I feel.

When we first talked about this at the end of April, Lionel was completely ready to go and excited about it (a big surprise for me because before this he has never really wanted to ever move to the US), but I hesitated, and hesitated, and hesitated. I spent nearly a month weighing the pros and cons, torturing myself with “what ifs”, and trying to understand why I wasn’t as excited as I always thought I would be at the chance to move back to the States.

Obviously, I did finally make the decision to move back because I realized that my reasons for wanting to stay in France were silly. I mainly wanted to stay for the travel opportunities (not to mention the vacation time!), but also because I felt kind of like this was my identity. Clearly I know that wanting to travel is not a good reason to decide to live somewhere (especially when you aren’t even happy there), so I ultimately choose the US for the career opportunities, the quality of life, the chance to be near friends and family again and in the hopes of being happy again.

But since deciding to move back, I have come to realize that there is another reason why I can’t seem to be 100% happy about this idea…because I feel like I have failed. After studying abroad for the first time, all I wanted was to live abroad, preferably in France. Of course, I always thought I would get there by working for an international company, not by meeting a guy, but Lionel was just icing on the cake, and I’m so happy to have him in my life. And then it happened and I moved to France, not just to study, but “permanently” to be with Lionel. I was so happy and so excited about spending our lives together and about doing it in France. But now, here I am, only 4 years after really moving here, and I am going back. I feel defeated and I feel like maybe I should have tried harder, kept working at it, stuck it out for another few years to see if I could find a way to be happy here. But instead, I am giving up and going back to the States. I have failed. I truly feel like I have failed and it’s humiliating. I should have done more to try to find a better job or we should have moved somewhere else in France to see if we would be happier there or I should have made more of an effort to meet people and network. But I didn’t. Instead I sank deeper and deeper into unhappiness and (dare I say it?) depression. And now I feel like I am going back to the US, having failed at something for the first time in my life, with my tail between my legs, admitting defeat. I think this is what bothers me the most about this move.

So, I am moving back to the US and I should be really excited about it. I should be jumping up and down for joy, but instead I am still uncertain. I’m sure things will be fine once I get there and settle back in, but for now the only thing I am really excited about is ending my job at the end of this month!

More to come later about details of the move and our last few months in France.



***Mom and Dad, if you are reading this, NO, this does not mean that I am not looking forward to seeing you, and NO, I am not going to change my mind now.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Remembering

At first I wasn't sure if I was going to post anything about 9/11, but after having so many students and friends asking me about it and wanting to talk about it this week, I decided it might be a good idea.  All week students have been asking me about 9/11 and French television has been overloaded with 9/11 programming, but I guess what really tipped the scale was a conversation with some friends last night.

We were invited to a friend's house for an apĂ©ro, and we were all sitting on the balcony, enjoying the relatively decent weather, when one of our friends mentioned that Sunday was the 10th anniversary of 9/11.  This got everyone talking and another friend made a comment about how important 9/11 is for the entire world, not just the US.  He pointed out that, when speaking of these attacks, everyone can tell you exactly where they were and what they were doing when the World Trade Center was hit.  However, this is not the case with other terrorist attacks.  He mentioned, as an example, that almost no one knows where the were in 1995 when the St. Michel metro was attacked, but everyone in France knows what they were doing when 9/11 happened.

So, where were you and what were you doing?  I was in my first year of college, only the second week of school.  Though the first plane hit the WTC at 8:46 am, I didn't learn of it until 9:00 when I arrived for my first class of the day, Italian.  Class started at 9:10, but I arrived about 10 minutes early, and when I walked into the room some students were already there watching the TV.  I looked up to see an image of smoke coming from the WTC and continued to watch, not fully comprehending, as the second plane struck at 9:03.  We continued to watch the news until 9:10 when our professor walked in to start class, yelled at us for having the TV on, walked over, turned it off saying "we aren't going to watch that" and then proceeded to hold the entire Italian class.  As soon as class ended we turned the TV back on to learn that the Pentagon had also been hit and that one tower had just collapsed.  From there, the rest is history.


I thought my friend's comment was very interesting, and it really shows the global impact that 9/11 had and still has. All week, and particularly today, I have been reminded by US media and facebook that Americans will never forget, but, even more importantly perhaps, the entire world will never forget.