Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Reverse weather shock and other fun things about returning to America

Ok, I suppose I owe y'all an update, as well as inform my temporary Parisien(ne) readers what they have forward to when they get back to the States (or "Burgerland," as a certain French musician quite accurately called it).  I am home safely, I did not crash in the middle of the Atlantic on the flight home, although after spending a full 24.5 hours travelling part of me wished I had...Tip #1: do not book with American Airlines.  They couldn't leave on time if they tried (and they don't).

Tip #2: it's a lot hotter in Florida than in Paris, and a lot more humid.  Remember that tres Parisienne habit I developed of putting on jeans and sweaters every day, even in the summer?  I regretted that as soon as I left the airport.  Don't bother trying to revive your running habit for a few days, either.  All that humidity and sweat that drips off your face and every other imaginable body location within 5 minutes of starting your workout that I used to think was just the universal result of outdoor exhertion?  It's not.  However, diving into a swimming pool fully clothed to avoid heatstroke immediately after a run is something I did miss while in unfortunately-swimming-pool-less Paris.  It's the little things you miss.

Other than that, I'm not as "culture shocked" as I expected to be.  American money looks and feels a bit strange at first (it's all the same size...and the same color...and why can't I find any 20 cents coins??) and I'm a much more cautious driver after a year-long hiatus.  But mostly I'm bored.  Working on getting a job and taking my calculus class and re-entering the real world is not nearly as picturesque as spending afternoons picnicing by the Eiffel Tower or walking past Notre Dame on my way out for the night.  And speaking of picturesque, my project 365 has ground to a dead halt.  Not only can I not afford camera batteries with no job, but nothing really seems photo-worthy anymore.  Oh yeah, and I miss having friends (but who really needs a social life when you sweat through everything you own in 15 minutes anyway?)  Loneliness...it's totally underrated.

All in all, I'm missing Paris and the people there more than I thought I would.  Is it too early to start apartment hunting for my 6th arrondisement vacation home/rental investment?

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Italy and packing

So, Italy was amazing.  We lost a bit of money on changing plane tickets and had to skip Venice, but I got to see a good friend who is studying in Florence, saw the major sites of Rome, and hiked the 5 towns of the Cinque Terre.  And, surprisingly, Etienne and I didn't hate each other by the end of it.  I haven't put pictures on my computer yet but I will soon and upload a few here.

Otherwise, since we've been back, I've been hanging out a bit more with Etienne before he left for another trip in Normandy.  We said goodbye yesterday, the first of what will be several goodbyes in the next 3 days.  Yep, that's right, 3 more days in Paris then I hop on a flight and get on home for good.  Still mixed feelings.  I've never been much good at goodbyes.

So my time as an American Au Pair in Paris is coming to an end.  Off to the WOS to say au revoir to some of my favorite people in Paris.  Not looking forward to all this packing and cleaning...

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The day I should have spent in Venice

Wake up at 4 am
Catch bus at 5 am to Gare de Nord
Catch 5:30 RER to Aeroport Charles de Gaulle to catch 6:50 plane to Milan and begin my week vacation in Italy.

At least, that was the plan.

Instead, however, we printed out the wrong "boarding pass" and had to check in even though we were told we wouldn't, missed check in, and therefore missed our flight.  So, a 60 euro change flight fee later and we have a booking for tomorrow at 1:40.  And Venice has been scratched off the itinerary.

I'd just like to say that I didn't print the faux boarding passes, my travel companion did.  And as soon as I saw them I said "I don't think these are right..." but he insisted we were fine.  I've been doing a good job of resisting my natural inclination to take charge and risk eye-rolling and bitchy/bossy under-the-breath accusations to make sure that things are planned correctly.  But I did, and look what happens.  If I had been there during printing, I would have known they weren't the right ones (I've printed Easyjet passes before) and we would be in Venice right now.  But pointing fingers now won't do us any good.  Lesson: if you want something done right, don't leave it up to a man.

Oh well.  At least now we had an extra day to sleep a bit and be well rested when we finally do make it.  But I'm still disappointed that we won't get to see Venice, ride a bus-boat, and see the Murano glass factory.  And I'm out the 80 euros we spent on the hotel.

We're still gonna make it, we'll just to straight to Florence from Milan and continue our trip as usual, just a day late.  So I can't complain too much.  But I hope I never have to deal with the stress of missing a flight again.  And this is gonna be a pretty frugal trip.  But at least we're being cheap skates together.

Next post better be post-Italy, and not just post-airport fiasco.  Cross your fingers.

Friday, July 1, 2011

"Free at last, free at last, thank God Almighty we are free at last"

So my last day of working with French children.  Ever.  I even stuck around for an extra couple hours to help fix dinner (hey, it was one last free meal).  And the girl whined and didn't want to eat.  And I smiled to myself and thought, "well, there's one more thing I won't miss."

Although there were more smiles than tears at our last goodbye (on both ends, I think), it was a little sad.  I shouldn't say sad, maybe I was mildly bummed.  Very mildly.  Not because I'm particularly going to miss these people, but because this is it.  The beginning of the end.

From here on out there are less than 3 weeks before I leave.  3 weeks to hang out with friends, to make the bar rounds, to picnic by the Eiffel Tower or jog by the Seine, to do all the Parisy things that maybe I've been putting off or neglecting because I kept telling myself that I have plenty of time.  And now I don't.

I'm really not terribly sad about leaving, I feel like I'm ready, I just have some mixed feelings.  Mostly I know that when I get back I'll be back to school, back to working, back to grad school apps, back to all the normal life things, back to everything that is NOT living in Paris.  This may be the most exciting and adventuresome year of my life and it's almost over.  Is it bad that there's a tiny part of me that's glad it's over?  I do miss doing things for a purpose...taking classes to get a degree, to get into grad school, working to make money for school, interning, etc. etc.  Now I'm in Paris...just to be in Paris.  It was a nice break, but I have other more important things I need to get to.

Still, I can't help feel like, no matter how many walks or deep breaths or pictures I'll take in these last few weeks, I still won't appreciate it like I should, like I'll wish that I had when I get back to the states.  How does it feel to "fully appreciate" something, to take advantage of each moment?  I don't know if I'd even recognize that feeling if I felt it.  Right now I just feel like I'm not taking advantage of my last opportunities to eat croissants and eclairs and pain au chocolat...but that will come.  Oh yes, that will come.  I guess I need to make one last "bucket list" and cross something off each day.  Any suggestions from readers would be helpful.

On another note though, 4th of July is coming up and I realllllyyyyy really really want to make this cake.  It's amazing.  It's beautiful.  And it's not even all that difficult.  Diet be damned, I might just do it.  I just need to round up cake mix, food coloring, a couple 8 inch baking pans, and a 4 inch cookie cutter...oh, and an oven...

Oh well, at least I'm free.  This weekend will be celebrating freedom from a tyrannous King over 200 years ago, and celebrating freedom from a tyrannous French family 2 hours ago.  Independence Day has a double meaning this year.

EDIT: I also just realized this is my 100th blog post.  I know a lot of people do "100 things about me" or something for this occasion, but 1) I forgot, and 2) I don't know if I'm that interesting and if people will sit through 100 things about me.  But maybe tomorrow I'll come up with "101 things about me" just to keep the blog juju going.  Maybe it'll even relate to being and American Au Pair in Paris.  Bonus.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Eclair

Today was day 4.  I ate eggs for breakfast, chicken with asparagus and a plum tomato for lunch, olives for a snack, and sneakily managed to "forgot" the pie crust while making quiche for dinner and turned it into an egg casserole type thing with tomato sauce on top.  I even passed on the pasta.  And then came The Eclair that the mom pulled out of the fridge that she had bought for me for my last night and everything went down the drain.

I couldn't not eat it.  It was perfectly-bronzed pastry filled with coffee-flavored custard and a coffee-flavored creme strip on top.  It was beautiful.  And she had bought it just for me.  It was one last kind gesture of a woman who knew all too well what it was like to be at her wit's end with her children, so much so that she hired someone else to take care of them.  A last parting gift, a "sorry for my brats, I hate them too" bonding moment.  Well, at least that's what I thought in my head.  So I couldn't just not eat it.

I got away with splitting it with her and only ate half instead of the whole thing.  But it was a delicious half.

And I don't regret it.  If I had to cheat with something, that was a delicious something to cheat with.  I'll make up for it the next few days, run a little extra and go vegetarian for a day or something like that.  I already know I'll be cheating with wine and fondue this weekend so hey, why not start with a bang?

I've also learned that I hate Les Soldes, the twice a year government-regulated sales in almost every store.  I'd rather pay full price and have a full selection that hasn't been picked through by the swarming hoards of tourists that descend on Parisian shops each summer.  Winter soldes were better, I think there was less competition.  Of course everything I wanted to buy is sold out, everywhere, and the stores are such a wreck it's hard to find a replacement.  Oh well, I don't need to spend money anyway (even though the skirt I wanted was marked down to 7 euros and they only have the ugly color left....errrg).  They last for a month so maybe something will pop up.  We shall see.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

A carbivore goes low carb, day 3

So I don't know if any of this is working.  It's day 3.  I have no scale or measuring tape so I really don't have any way to know other than how I feel.  But they say that's healthy, no?

I discovered a few things this morning.

1. Not all artificial sweeteners are equal (pun intended).  I usually hate all artificial sweeteners but I gotta do something, they eat plain yogurt like it's water here.  Apparently maltodextrin has a higher glycemic index than table sugar.  It is not recommended by the South Beach book, but I don't have that in front of me now, do I?  Maybe the big container of maltodextrin they bought for The Boy's diet is the reason he still looks the same as when I got here, that and a complete lack of enforcement by his parents, but that's another story.  So I'll either have to find another temporary solution or do without.

2. Carrots are not allowed.  But it's a vegetable!  I don't think I've eaten many carrots yet but I had a small amount at dinner last night and bought a few to snack on.  Maybe I'll let that rule slide.

3. Cold cuts have sugar in them.  Who knew?  It's listed as "dextrose" which is another name for glucose, which I'm fairly sure I learned in some metabolism or nutrition class back in college but conveniently forgot.  Sneaky meat manufacturers.  Regardless, it's the last ingredient listed so it can't be that significant, and the South Beach guy says cold cuts are kosher, so I might just keep them around, at least in small quantities.  I'm not trying for a total overhaul here.  I figure just getting rid of the rice/pasta/bread/potatoes stuff will help a lot, since it's normally about 99% of my diet.  Hey, Paris is expensive and pasta's cheap.  Don't judge.

So those have been my mistakes, or would-be mistakes if I was really taking this all that seriously.  Maybe that's why I feel like nothing's changed.  Oh, and last night I popped a few reject pieces of peach in my mouth while preparing a fruit salad before I realized it.  It's really cruel to have to prepare pastas and potato salads and fruit salads and all this stuff when I can't eat it.  Then again, peach is a relatively low-sugar fruit, I think, so I'm not gonna worry too much.  I won't be one of those obnoxious obsessed dieters who can't have any fun.  At least I hope not, because on Monday we're going to Refuge des Fondues for Kristin's last night and you better believe there will be bread-dipped-in-cheese and wine-out-of-baby-bottles mayhem.

This is, however, the most successful "diet" I've ever been on, even if I don't lose any weight, I've actually stuck pretty close to it for 3 days now.  It think that's a new record for me.

About to go for a run, I wonder if it'll be harder with this lack of carb intake.  Let's go find out.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Heat wave

Yesterday I was celebrating the return of the sun into Parisian skies.  Now I want it to chill the eff out.  Apparently it has returned with a vengeance and it was 95 degrees all day and these crazy Parisians are still convinced that they don't need air conditioning or fans or anything of the sort.  I even saw a few people in jeans and/or cardigans.  But of course, they were French so they weren't sweating.  So I have taken 4 cold showers today, my only way to cool down.  Thank goodness I had the motivation to get up and run at 9 am instead of waiting til the middle of the day like I was tempted to.

Speaking of running, I have successfully completed day one of low/no-carb crash diet.  To help I spent 24 euros on chicken and various veggies.  I was so hungry by the time I got to the family's house that I went all Atkins on 3 pieces of sausage, 1 of which was legit sausage left over from a few nights ago with red beans when I was alone and no one was looking, but 2 of which were pretty much hot dogs.  I don't know how they act all pretentious about American food when they literally boiled some hot dogs/"sausages", dropped them on the plate and called it dinner.  But whatever, it's not carbs, and I pretty much ate 2 eggs and 2 chicken cold cuts the whole day before that so I deserved it.

Of course, The Girl was allowed to bring her toys and play at the dinner table, and then The Mom said "eat first, play after you eat" and actually expected it to work.  Like, hello lady, have you met your child?  Or heard me saying the exact same thing to her so often she doesn't even hear it anymore?  Or have you just zoned out of your life completely?  Not that I blame her.  I was a little more irritable than normal over dinner tonight.  Maybe it's the low-carb effect on my brain levels of serotonin.  Or maybe it was getting Littlest Pet Shop toys all up in my salad and listening to her whining when her mom got annoyed and having to pass over the potato salad with corn in it that smelled SO good.  But I did.  Props to me.  And the boy wasn't there at all.  So all in all, not a bad day.  

Contemplating another cold shower.  In fact I'm contemplating just sleeping in the shower while the water runs over me all night.  Sounds heavenly.