Friday, April 29, 2011

So you wanna be an au pair in Paris?? part 2

You still want to?  Really?  You're sure?  Ok.

So after my last installment, you've found your family.  Now what?

1. Start saving.  Seriously.  Get a second job or something.  The girl before me came with about $3,000 saved up.  I came with next to none.  She did a lot more travelling than I did.  Paris is not a cheap place to live and you won't get paid a lot.  Bring as much as you can.  While you're at it, look into a credit union, or a bank with international partnerships.  For instance, Bank of America partners with BNP Paribas here, and allows you to withdraw money with lower international fees than some other banks.

2. Get your visa. They say not to get your plane ticket first, because your visa may be delayed, and you can't enter the country without your passport.  However, you can't get your visa more than 3 months before your arrival in France. So I'll leave that decision up to you.

Please note that all of these are based on my experiences in the summer of 2010, and your consulate may have different requirements or they might have changed.  Please check with your consulate for confirmation.

First, locate the French Consulate that serves your area.  For my consulate, in Miami, there was not a lot of information about au pair visas specifically - just work visas and student visas.  As an au pair you will get a student visa so follow the instructions under this heading if no au pair information is found. I needed several documents, including the long-stay visa application (available online), my au pair contract from the family, approved by the French labor department (they should do this), a certified copy of my high school diploma (this will cost you, be prepared), a letter (in French, make friends with Google translate) explaining why I wanted to come and study in France, an ID photo (get several, you need them for a lot of things in France), my passport, and a self-addressed envelope.  You will NOT need to register with campusfrance since you're not a "real" student, if you will.  Your au pair contract should act as your proof of accomodations and finances so you will not need these either.

Second, you will have to make an appointment, probably online, and probably well in advance, to come in person to your consulate to turn these pages in.  So you live in Tallahassee, which is a 10 hour drive from Miami?  Tough.  Make it a family vacation and bring the whole clan.  You will probably need to print out the confirmation of your appointment; even if they tell you you don't need this, print it and bring it anyway.  They can be picky.

Bring photocopies of everything.

According to this, the processing fee for a long-stay visa (what you want) is $143.  I have heard that some prospective au pairs were only charged the student fee of $72 at their consulate.  I was not.  Have $143 ready just in case.

3. Got your visa paperwork turned in?  Book your flight.  You're probably going to be arriving in Paris for the beginning of the school year, meaning late August or early September. July and August are the two vacation months in Paris and therefore the most expensive times to fly.  If possible, shoot for early September; flights drop by a couple hundred dollars between August and September.  Try, a site that gives discounts on some flights for students and those of us under 26; you'll just have to fax in proof of enrollment or age and once they confirm they will book your flight.  I found my flight in September for $500 on this site; the cheapest I found in late August was $800.  Also, you probably won't be able to book a return flight yet but do that as soon as possible too, because summer flight prices will start high and only go up.

4. Packing.  Pack a few days or maybe a week or two in advance; you'll probably have to eliminate things to get it down to your desired number of suitcases.  Use space bags, they are a lifesaver.

Things Parisians wear:

  • Black pea coat.  Fitted.  Don't try to buy it one size up to "accommodate for layers."  You will just look like a bag lady compared to all the svelte French women who have obviously experienced more winters than this Floridian.  One that covers your butt is nice too, nothing's more miserable than your butt being cold.
  • Black anything, for that matter.
  • Down jackets (I call them puffers but apparently no one else does).  They smell funny but they look warm.  Only in very cold weather though, may not be worth the extra space they take up.  I survived without one.
  • Blazers.  Black or navy.  Rolled at the wrist, over anything.
  • Boots.  Any style, size, color.  They love boots and will wear them from October through April regardless of what the temperature is actually like You can even wear brown boots with that black pea coat, colors don't seem to be as big a deal as Americans make them.
  • Scarves.  There is a difference between light summer scarves worn for appearances (foulards) and the warm winter scarves (echarps).  They wear them both.  You will begin to wonder how you ever survived without a scarf.
  • Converse All-Star sneakers.  In grey or dark blue, not black.  Almost always high tops, but with jeans, who can tell the difference?
  • Skinny jeans.  Dark wash.  Even on people who aren't terribly skinny.  If you think you can't wear them, spend some time in Paris.  You will likely change your mind.
  • Pants that aren't jeans.  Weird, I know.  Like these strange sort of pleated, kind of baggy, ankle length trousers.  Wait til you get here to get a sense of that one because many Americans seem to have trouble with this.  I'm still not sure how they do it.
  • Oxfords.  You know, those menswear-looking flat lace-up shoes that no one in America really knows how to wear?  They rock them.
  • Ballet flats, in spring.
  • Layers.  Think a jacket over a sweater over a dress over leggings with a scarf thrown over it.  Topped with a hat.  I'm still working on this one.
Things Parisians don't wear:
  • Sweatshirts. (Not entirely true, I did see a woman wearing a grey zip-up hoodie, under a black blazer with dark wash jeans and black high heeled boots.  Nothing sloppy about it.)
  • Sweatpants.
  • Athletic shoes (unless running)
  • Shorts (without leggings underneath, anyway...I still plan on wearing mine when it gets warm, Parisians be damned)
  • Flip flops.
Things you also might want to bring:
  • Laptop equipped with Skype.  You will likely use it often.
  • Dental floss and Listerine.  It's expensive here, IF you can find it.  Stock up
  • Adapters.  They are fairly affordable.  You probably won't need a transformer for your computer or camera charger.  Mine didn't work anyway.  If you rely on a hair straightener, plan to buy on in France.  No one I know has had success with American appliances.
Wear your heaviest stuff on the plane.  I wore 2 sweaters, all my jewelry, and my Uggs, even though it was 90 degrees outside when I left.  Once on the plane I took it all off and switched to flip flops.  And if you get to baggage check in and it's a few pounds too heavy (a few, not 10), a little panicked "but I'm moving to Paris" may garner some sympathy from well-meaning airport employees and they may let you slide.  But be prepared.

Alright, I have a rule that when attempting to manipulate airline employees comes into the picture, it's time to wrap it up.  On the bright side, I will continue this in a third and final discussion on costs ( I will, I promise!), and I have also purchased new batteries for my camera so P365 can continue yet again.

Au revoir for now amigos.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Best Week Ever part 2

Part two of my vacation week.  As promised. Would I lie to you?

Wednesday (4-20-11):  Back in Paris! (for me and Caitlin, first time for Kyle).  We walked from the Arc de Triomphe down the Champs Elysees, bought sandwiches at Monoprix and had a picnic lunch in the Tuileries, then went to see the Louvre (we didn't go in) and Notre Dame (we did go in's free).  Caitlin and I went for a short run at Bois de Boulogne and then we got ready to go to dinner, in the new dress I bought while in Amsterdam (it's really cute, you'd like it mom).  I finally made it to Refuge des Fondues, the restaurant that serves bread-and-cheese fondue with wine in (rather large) baby bottles, supposedly designed at one point to avoid the tax on anything served in a stemmed glass.  We met another American couple there who had just finished as we arrived, and all in all it was quite an experience...definitely something I'll do again (after I get paid, as I have spent pretty much all my money on this past week.  Not that I regret it, of course.)

Thursday (4-21-11): Breakfast in America for a breakfast burrito (me) and hamburgers (Kyle and Caitlin - it was actually around lunch time once we got there).  Did some shopping for Caitlin so she can get some non-Africa clothes while Kyle explored the Pompidou modern art museum.  Met Etienne then went back to my apartment where Caitlin made a delicious sausage and pasta dish for dinner, and after eating we went to the Eiffel Tower where we sat and watched it light up a few times and listened to music on Kyle's iPod speakers. I'm cheating a little, I didn't take a picture of this (I forgot...I know) so I'm using an old picture from October or November, but it still gives you the same idea.  Actually I'll be cheating for the next few days because I forgot to take pictures for a while (well, one day there really just wasn't anything worth taking pictures of.)  But don't worry, it still gets the same point across.

Friday (4-22-11):  Woke up and went to Sacre Coeur, both mine and Caitlin's favorite place in Paris. Although I've been there plenty of times, I haven't ever been there during the day, and I hadn't climbed up to the dome.  Turns out not many people know about the dome, the entrance is a bit hidden and it's not very advertised, and though there was a huge Good Friday crowd waiting to get into the church itself, there were only about 3 or 4 people in line for the Dome.  So up we climbed, really not to bad thanks to climbing the stairs to my apartment (one of the benefits, I've found) and we got an even higher view than the one from the steps of the church (one of the highest in Paris, actually, second only to the top of the Eiffel Tower).  It also helped that it was a beautiful day outside and the weather was clear and you could see a good distance.  I'm cheating with the picture again, I found this on google, but I really did see this so I could have taken it.  Please don't sue me.  Afterwards Caitlin and Kyle shipped out for London and I took a nap, attempted a run that my knees just weren't feeling, and spent the rest of the evening at Le Cavern, a nifty little cave bar in the 6th.  Good night.

Saturday (4-23-11): catching up on sleep and relaxing and enjoying having my apartment back to myself.  I really am a green, I need my sponge-squeezing time.  I spent the day being lazy and watching my only DVD, 500 Days of Summer, which I have watched countless times, in English and in French.  I'm pretty sure the only time I left my apartment today was to go to the grocery store.  Winning.
My favorite scene: "Darling, I don't know how to tell you this, but there's a Chinese family in our bathroom."

Sunday (4-24-11): Easter!  Had an Easter picnic with Claudia and Kristin in Bois de Vincennes, and there was a fair there with rides!  We need to look it up and find out how much it is because I definitely want to go before it disappears.  We picnicked by the lake then walked around for a while (read: got lost) but the weather was great so I can't really complain.  They even have little rowboats you can rent out on the lake, like at Bois de Boulogne.  They really put a lot of effort into making these parks picturesque.  (I actually did take this picture this time).  Afterwards Claudia and I ended at WOS (big surprise) and watched the Miami Heat game and listened to live music and bonded over beers.  Typical night, but I still love it.

And now today is Monday, and as much as I would like to post a picture 1) I haven't left my apartment yet, and 2) the batteries in my camera are dead and I need new ones.  I'll hit up the grocery store ASAP (they might not be open, apparently today is a holiday).  So maybe I'll end up cheating again, or maybe I'll be able to squeeze one more photo out of my AAs.  Back to work tomorrow....such is life.

Best Week Ever part 1

This has probably been my favorite vacation week ever.  Fitting, too, since this is my last vacation until I'm done and starting tomorrow I will be working for another 2 months and then flying back home to America forever.  That sounds weird, but not all that bad.  Anyway, here's an update:

From where I left off, last Friday (4-15-11), I spent 2 days pretty much hanging out with Etienne (who also has found himself with a lot of extra free time since quitting his job) and being lazy and enjoying the good weather.  Saturday, even though I was still a little sick, we went to the Jardin du Luxembourg to sit around in the sun and explore a bit (since I'd never been there).  It's really quite a bit bigger than I expected.  This picture is one part of it, with some sort of political building off to the side.
Saturday (4-16-11) we went to Beaubourg again (he as a musician and I as moral support because he was shy to play alone), and after getting told to stop by the police, we sat and enjoyed some performers in the square outside the Pompidou.  This guy was really hilarious and had quite a large audience, very impressive (and highly energetic, he did this show about 3 times while we were there).  The picture is not actually crooked (even though most of mine are ever-so-slightly slanted despite my best efforts, especially on this camera I'm using now), the square is sloped downward towards the Pompidou building (on the left).

Sunday (4-17-11): Amsterdam with Caitlin and Kyle!! My train left at 6 am so I had to take a taxi to Gare de Nord but I got there with plenty of time to spare.  I arrived in Amsterdam at 11 am, went to the hostel to deposit my backpack, and we spent the day essentially exploring the city, walking along the many canals (pictured) and enjoying it's many coffeeshops (for the sake of my parents and my future employment, we'll leave it at that).  We wanted to go to the Van Gogh museum but we thought the line was too long (of course, it was twice as long the next day so we never did go), discovered a stirfry restaurant that was amazing (or maybe we just thought it was), and after a short nap we embarked on our own mini pubcrawl around the city, which included shoarmas and which started and ended at the bar below the hostel where we got 10% off (not a bad deal).

Monday (4-18-11):  More Amsterdam, including climbing in the I am amsterdam sign by the museum, a little shopping for Caitlin, seeing (but not entering) the wax museum and the giant statue that is supposedly devoted to "war and peace" but looks like a flaunting of phallic masculinity to me, and otherwise wandering around.  Around 6 pm I had to catch my train and in order to arrive in Brussels at the same time Kyle and Caitlin left closer to 5 (they were on a slower regional train instead of Thalys) so I read a bit and lounged.  Upon arriving in Brussels to stay with Caitlin's Uncle John and Aunt Irene (who I have met before in Maine a long time ago, which I didn't realize) we found a nice little Italian restaurant, had pizza and calzones and a few glasses of wine, and fell asleep pretty quickly.

Tuesday (4-19-11): Brussels, for a day.  There really isn't a whole lot in Brussels; we took a nice walk down a very prominent shopping road and through a few gardens, chocolate shops, and one church to the Grand Place, which is essentially a large square with cafes and restaurants surrounding it.  After some Godiva chocolate covered strawberries (I couldn't help myself) we picked a cafe and had a few beers (which is really what Belgium is about, no?), including the one pictured on the left, a special at many cafes called KWAK (yeah, we made fun of that for a while) which requires it's own stand.  We had a few people come and ask to take pictures of it while we sat there.  We also found the Little Delirium cafe (a smaller branch of the famous one) and tried the Delirium beer before leaving to eat and catch our 9 pm train to Paris.

I'll save Paris for later, I feel like this is quickly turning into the longest post ever.  Part 2 to come soon (sooner than my last part 2 promise, don't worry.)

Thursday, April 14, 2011

More P365 pictures

Part 2 of au pair info to come soon...posts like that take a bit more time than simply uploading photos.  Oh, and I received my first spam comment today...does that make me a legit blogger now?  Righteous.

 Day 62: 4-11-11 - Naked mannequins being covered with brown paper in a window display at ProMod.  Really?  Is this a French requirement or just this one store?  Either way it's a bit silly...we wouldn't want our children being corrupted by seeing naked plastic people (because they've never undressed their Barbie's before, I'm sure)

 Day 63: 4-12-11 - rowboats on the lake at Bois de Boulogne, taken after a run.  When the weather warms up I want to rent one.  Maybe I'll find a nice French man to row it for me..."You! Come row my boat!"  How romantic.  With my luck that phrase is really a slang term for some exotic sexual act and said French man will speak only enough English to understand that I just asked him to do something indecent in public.

Day 64: 4-13-11 - Easter package from the family, including Easter Grass (a build-your-own basket, I'm assuming?), egg dying kit, peeps, jelly beans, and of course, Easter just isn't Easter with Cadbury Creme Eggs.  Also a fleur-de-lis shirt from Amy.  Times like these I can't wait to get home.

Day 65: 4-14-11 - A bit sick.  Took some sudafed and then took a sandwich and a coke to Bois de Boulogne (quickly becoming one of my favorite places in Paris) to eat and get some fresh air.  These ducks didn't seem to mind me sitting only a few feet from them.  They were probably hoping for some sandwich scraps.

Bear with me as I get back into the hang of this whole photo-taking thing, and as I adjust to the new/old camera I'm using.  I'm still not in love with it, but hey, it gets the job done so I really can't complain.  Skype date with Caitlin soon, we'll see if our Amsterdam plans are still green-lighted in spite of her malaria...

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Ode to my favorite jacket

Oh dear semi-faux trench from H&M that was priced just high enough for me to deem valuable without making me consider selling my eggs on the black market:  I love that you are the perfect weight to wear on those in-between days, when I am in between a coat or nothing;  I love that you accentuate my waist perfectly while not being excessively tight around my bust;  I love your machine washability and your magical propensity for only getting stains on the inside where no one can see them;  I love that your neutral khaki hue literally goes with everything in my admittedly-small wardrobe.  However, all that paneling and those seemingly-randomly-placed buttons which serve to make you oh-so-chic and sophisticated also make you a bitch to iron, and it is for this reason that I fear our relationship will forever be resigned to one of the love-hate variety.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

So you wanna be an au pair in Paris?? part 1

Judging from the increased number of friends I have had telling me they've been considering being an au pair, and the number of people who have found my blog by searching for related key words, I suppose I should make a post dedicated to au pairing in general (which, despite what you may read here, can be quite fun).

Many people want to come to France.  Unfortunately for Americans and other non-EUers, without a job already lined up (which are difficult to come by), a French passport (or other EU country), a French husband, or a lot of money ready to blow on an extended non-working holiday, your options are rather limited.

  1.  Teaching Assistantship.  Check it out.  Pros: it's a real job that doesn't involve children.  Cons: the application deadline for 2011-12 is closed, and you don't get to pick your city.  If you have your heart set on Paris, you may be disappointed, but if I had it to do over I might have picked a city on the south coast, French riviera, because goodness it's beautiful there.  
  2. And of course, au pairing.  (Maybe I should include #3, tricking a French man into marrying you, but until you meet French men, think carefully about this option).
I will include a disclaimer here: despite how nice the family will seem, how lovely they swear their children are, how much the last au pair convinces you that everything is just sunshine and rainbows:  it's not.  Yes, there are good parts, and this has certainly been one of my most rewarding and exciting experiences, but also the hardest, in many many ways (as I'm sure those regular readers know quite well).  You will experience culture shock (in ways you didn't even think possible.  Like, pink toilet paper.  Really, France?), homesickness, loneliness, brokeness (is that a word?),  isolation, add all that to taking care of someone else's children which is always challenging even in your own country, and you are guaranteed to have some "what the hell was I thinking, get me on a plane back home NOW" moments.  But, we all love a challenge, don't we?  So without further ado...

Step 1: To use an agency or not?
Some people will tell you to use an agency; I don't know anyone who has actually done this.  They will charge you a fee, and yes they will help match you and help you with your visa, but this process is really easier than it looks.  Save the money, you'll need it.  There are 2 websites that seem to be most commonly used: and  Personally I had more success with the former, but I know one or two people who used GA with good results.  Think of it like online dating.  You set up a profile, the families set up a profile, and it gives you matches based on your preference.  It is free to sign up, most families pay a fee to be able to see your contact info and get in touch with you.  If they don't, you don't want them anyway, they are obviously not on the ball.  If, however, you still insist on hiring someone to do all this for you, I'd be happy to do your searching for a minimal fee...

Step 2: Finding your family.
There are a few things to look for on the profile of the family, things you wouldn't think about unless you've been there.

  • Location, location locationJust outside the city or near the city probably means about 30 minutes away or more.  Yes, Paris has a great train system, but it is not open all night, and many families will object to you coming home too late anyway.  They may say they are from Paris in the headline, but google map the place they say they are from.  Unless they are within the Peripherique (that road that runs around Paris), they are not actually IN Paris.
  • Accommodations: it is a requirement that au pairs in France have their own rooms.  If the family says you must share a room with the children, RUN AWAY.  If you live in a home with the family (most common in the suburbs) you may have to share bathrooms and showers as well.  Many families have an adjoined au pair "wing" which is like a mini-apartment within their house, or a "guest house" on their property you may stay in.  This is a very good deal.  In the city, it is fairly common for the family to have a separate studio apartment because of a lack of space.  Note: "small studio" probably means "smaller than you've ever seen a person who's not homeless living in in America."  It will be tiny by your standards.  Do not assume that this apartment will have a toilet, shower, kitchen, or anything other than a bed unless it is expressly mentioned.  Also don't assume there will be an elevator to your 5th floor apartment (hint hint).  Ask about these things.
  • Schedule/responsibilities: ask for a specific schedule during a typical day (from both the family and the previous au pair, if possible).  Do the kids come home for lunch?  If so, you'll probably be working afternoons.  Do you have responsibilities in the house while the kids are at school?  What are your Wednesdays like (French children typically don't have school, or get out early on Wednesdays)?  Do you have weekends free?  What about children's vacations from school?  Babysitting?  Do you need to drive? (in Paris, hopefully this will not be required of you.  If it is, God bless you.)  How much cooking and cleaning will you be expected to do outside of your responsibilities with the children?  Will you care for pets?  Will you be asked to wait tables for dinner parties and not be paid extra for such tasks?  (No, seriously.  It could happen.)  Ask for details, and ask for them in writing.  Save these emails.
  • Language courses:  if you are American, you will need to enroll in French courses to satisfy your immigration requirements.  And you will likely have to pay for these yourself (although there are the occasional families who offer to cover this).  They tell you you have to take 10 hours a week the whole year; no one will come after you if you only sign up for 12 weeks at 8 hours a week (my school even gave me documentation of year-long 10 hours a week enrollment, even though I wasn't, for immigration purposes).  Go to class, try to learn.  It will make life easier.  Also, if you want to renew your visa for a second year, you may need to provide proof that you stuck with the class the whole year (which I didn't).  So keep that in mind if you think you may like to stay.  Bonus: signing up for the class allows you to get the Imagine R metro pass for students, which is half the price of the normal monthly Navigo.  Hint: many language schools offer Au Pair programs, that are generally cheaper and more flexible than normal courses. 
  • Pay: in summary, you probably won't get a lot.  The government minimum for au pairs is 300 euro a month.  Many pay more.  The au pair work week is legally set at 30 hours a week.  If you will work more, ask for more pay.  Especially if you live away from the family, you should expect more to cover things that would otherwise be provided for you such as food, transportation, etc.  In a live out option, ask for a minimum of 400, some I know get 500, and one girl I knew got 400 PLUS up to 200 reimbursed for her groceries (they counted receipts at the end of the month).  Pay is always negotiable.  Find out what you will be expected to pay for (internet in your apartment, some of your food, transportation, etc) and factor that in to the amount you ask for.
  • Do both parents work?  Seems weird, I know, but if they do, find out exactly what time they usually get home, and hold them to it.  Also, keep in mind that you will be the primary care giver on Wednesdays, vacations, sick days, etc.  As spoiled and needy as I think it has made my kids to have a stay-at-home mom AND and au pair, when the kids are sick, I don't work more.  I don't work all day Wednesday.  I have school vacations off for travel.  Each situation has pros and cons.
Other tips: As an American, a family who had previously had an American au pair was helpful because they were familiar with visa requirements and all the bureaucracy that goes along with it.  And don't feel rushed.  Take your time.  Don't accept the first offer you get; explore your options and see if there's a better option out there.

Well, I think this has gotten long enough for now, and believe it or not, I do occasionally have a life with friends and need to go take advantage of that.  Next time: things to do once you've found your family to help prepare for your time abroad (get excited), and how much is this REALLY gonna cost you?

Sunday, April 10, 2011

The Perfect Day in Paris and the Return of P365

For real. Days like yesterday are the reason I started considering staying for another year, and make it really tempting.  Couldn't have been more perfect.

Well, maybe it could have if I didn't get lost on my way home the night before, get 2.5 hours of sleep, and wake up half an hour after I was supposed to be at work.  But hey, it happens to the best of us.

Once I finally got to work at 11, things quickly got better since I was there for only about 2 hours before saying au revoir to the Mom and The Girl for the next two weeks and beginning my vacation.  Next stop, Centre Pompidou to see Etienne, the kid that plays at WOS on Sunday nights, play with his friend.  Since the sun was out (I like this new trend) I bought some cheap 8 euro sunglasses (that look pretty fab, if I do say so myself) and spent the afternoon listening to good music and sitting in the sun.  It's really the simple things in life.  We also got to listen to a guy with shoulder length white hair who was about 4 feet tall and sounded like the guy from AC/DC with a laryngectomy play guitar and sing/scream all the words loud enough to everyone nearby to hear, from Bob Marley to the Beatles and even a few French songs I didn't know.  Maybe not aesthetically pleasing, but entertaining none the less (note to self: if I ever go back to Paris, look for this guy).

After he and I (Etienne, not AC/DC guy) walked to WOS to be a bit social and after meeting a few kids from Boston and of course doing new-friends-Car Bombs with them my lack of sleep caught up to me and I called it an early night.  But even in spite of this, just enjoying good music in good weather with good people sure makes me a happy camper.

Today my accomplishments included a run in the Bois de Boulogne to test my newly-minted duct tape/safety pin "running wallet" which works quite well functionally speaking but does have some breathability and slight chaffing issues, but hey, it's nothing my hip can't handle for an hour or so.  Slow start to a vacation but I was proud nonetheless.

In other news, you should be excited to know that Savannah kindly pointed out to me that I did not in fact need to order a USB cable to hook up my camera to my computer because my laptop (that I have had for 5 years, btw) has a slot to insert the memory card DIRECTLY INTO THE COMPUTER.  How AWESOME is that, as well as sad that it took me over 5 years to find that out?  So despite the fact that I am less than in love with this camera, rejoice, for Project 365 is officially back up and running, starting Friday but I didn't get around to uploading until today.  You can't stop me, French muggers.

Alors...after an over-a-month-long hiatus, I bring you the return of Project 365!

Day 59, 4-8-11:  Pierre with a stack of Eric's plaid shirts for people to wear at the WOS Bar Country and Western party, complete with cowboys, Indians, and Mexicans.  (They have an interesting perception of the American West, though fairly accurate I suppose)

Day 60, 4-9-11: Etienne (right) and his violin-playing friend (Pierre, I believe?) playing at Pompidou, taken from my window perch backstage (I got to be the groupie for the day)

Day 61, 4-10-11: sky from my window at sunset.  First thing I thought when I saw this was "baby powder" although baby powder is neither blue nor pink, so then I thought "cotton candy" which can be both blue and pink but never at the same time, so I don't know what the deal with the ice cream is.  But I digress...

I really need to make a post about being an au pair (considering that's what this whole blog is supposed to be about, but once I started actually half-way enjoying myself nothing really seemed all that interesting anymore). I have had a lot of people directed here through searches for "au pairs in paris," "being an au pair," etc etc.  So next time I will get on that and try to help all these people out a bit.

To the person who found my blog by searching for "Emma wos bar paris," don't be a stalker.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Mysterious Parisian livestock

This morning I woke up, got dressed to go for a run with Tabitha, and leaned out the window while drinking my tea, enjoying the morning sun and the birds chirping and the newly greened trees...and then I heard a rooster crowing.  A rooster?  I paused, waiting.  Come back, rooster, I thought.  But it didn't.  I felt a little betrayed, either by the rooster (because I know from experience that they don't just crow at dawn, they crow all the damn time, so for this one to crow only once is a direct taunt and I'm insulted) or by my sanity.  I know I heard it.  I know I did.

Where are you, rooster, and wtf are you doing in Paris?

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Tuesday Tuesday, gotta get down on....wait....

Tuesday.  Why didn't the Mamas and the Papas or Rebecca Black ever make a song about Tuesday, you may ask?  Oh yeah, because it sucks.  Tuesdays and Thursdays are the worst days of the week.  Even worse than Mondays.  Mondays can be kind of fun sometimes, mainly because I don't work til 5 so it's a nice little refresher day to pull myself together from the weekend and begin the work week all zen and mellow.  Wednesdays are the half-way mark, optimistic despite those people who insist on making as many references to "hump day" as possible, even though for many au pairs Wednesdays are awful because most kids don't have school or get out of school at noon that day, but my life-of-luxury family with a mother who has an au pair and a cleaning lady but no job can handle her own children these days so for me they are quite nice.  Fridays, well obviously, are Fridays, and there's a kickin song about them here.  (Enjoy that little gem of musical/lyrical genius, dear readers, especially you, Mom, this is my attempt at keeping you up to date on pop culture goings-on even from overseas.  You're welcome.)  But Tuesdays and Thursdays are just blah, Tuesday you're already tired but you're not even halfway through and Thursday is that "so close, but so far away" moment where the weekend is just out of reach.

But really, for being such a plain and rather boring day on paper I quite enjoyed it.  Got up at 8:30 to meet Tabitha at 9 to go running in the Bois de Boulogne which is this big park/wood just outside the peripherique but line 1 during rush hour was going so slow I was 10 minutes late and couldn't find her so I figured she gave up on me and I just decided to go it alone.  (Turns out she was also about 10 minutes late and when she didn't find me she thought the same thing, what a joke my life is, right?)  So then I got lost in the closest thing to the middle of nowhere since last May at River Run trying to find the Lac Inferior (which is actually the larger and northernmost of the two lakes in the park, obviously some French people got a little confused in the naming process).  Some old man and his dog even stumbled upon and me he said something to me that I couldn't hear with my headphones but I imagine it was something like "You look lost, be careful not to get kidnapped and sold into sex slavery."  Ok, I keed, it wasn't that skeezy, and there were even several major roads running through this bois so it couldn't have been all that bad.  I finally found the lake and ran a lap and then back to a metro (not the same one I came on, which I still don't know how that happened, but hey, a metro is a metro).

After a shower back home I went and deposited money and my 500€ insurance check that the insurance company of the guy who hit me on the motorcycle sent me (that part was quite nice, actually), supposedly to repay the part of the hospital bill I "paid" but since I didn't actually pay anything, I'm gonna go ahead and deposit it before they figure that out and cancel it... but anyway, I needed the money in my account so I can pay the fee for my "lost" Navigo metro card, which I didn't actually lose but I poked a hole in it so I could safety pin it to my shorts for when I run but that apparently rendered the whole thing useless so instead of being judged at the Imagine R office like the lady at the metro station did when I asked her why my card wasn't working, I just reported it lost online.  Here I was thinking I was so crafty and that stupid little hole cost me 23€ plus at least 24€ worth of tickets in the meantime while I wait for my new one.  Awfully expensive for a hole I made with a kitchen knife.  At least that 500€ came at a convenient time.

So yeah, after that it was just nap and then work which was easy because the parents were at a theater thing The Boy's class was doing so it was just me and The Girl and I put her to bed and then had a nice little snooze on the sofa for an hour or so before they came home.  Then a lovely walk home because I'm rationing my tickets et voilà, I am now comfortably (if not a bit overheated) in bed.

Oh and in other news, FSU is charging me $96 for a OB-GYN appointment in February even though I GRADUATED LAST MAY AND HAVEN'T BEEN IN THE COUNTRY FOR 7 MONTHS NOW.  TFCO FSU.  Still need to call them and figure out all that nonsense.  And here I am making fun of French people, we're just as bad, aren't we?

Well, it's 4 more days till my last vacation before I'm done as an au pair, which means back on my baguette diet for 2 weeks, and 12 more days until I am reunited with Big-Tall-Caitlin in Amsterdam!  I am determined to enjoy this vacation fully, especially considering my newfound largess.  So if anyone has any ideas, because we all know I'm not the most excitable person, please chime in at anytime.

And, just to leave you on a positive note, leave it to Stephen Colbert to take what is possibly the world's most terrible song and make it into what is possibly the world's most epic ballad to everyone's favorite day of the week ever created.  Gotta get down on Friday, y'all.

Friday, April 1, 2011

A "what was I thinking" kind of day.

So I don't believe I've mentioned this yet, but about a week ago, Christine told me that if I would like to work for her next year as well, that I was welcome to.

And I seriously considered it for a few days.

Like, really wanted to, was ready to say yes, and peace out mom and dad, see ya next year.

And then there was today.

Nothing really happened, I have nothing to really complain about, but for some reason I spent most of the day hating my job and hating the weather and asking myself "how in the world did I ever think that I could stay another year with these people?"  Every whine, every minute of sitting around doing nothing waiting for the kids to do whatever they were supposed to be doing but weren't, every dish and condiment that was taken out and not put away, every bowl of old food or empty jar of jam in the fridge that no one thought to throw out because, I'm sure, they thought "oh well, Sarah will do it," all made me want to roll my eyes, throw my hands up, and tell them all how sick of their bs I was.

So rejoice, parents, the prodigal daughter is returning, I am once again planning on coming home and living with you as your penniless, jobless college graduate bum of a daughter.  I might even consider doing something with all that stuff in my room...:)

But anyway, that's the full update.  In other news, I want to be like these ladies when I grow up.

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