This is gonna have to be my new tradition. I also did 2009 and 2011.

Seems to me now that the dreams we had before are all dead, nothing more than confetti on the floor )

Ew I ended it on a sour note. Well this has been kind of a sour year. I mean for other people I guess it would be a fine year (minus nearly dying and finding out your friends don't care about you) but to fill out this quiz I was deleting my answers from LAST year when I had become the world's best groupie and recently been deflowered by my then-celebrity crush and followed that up with three first dates in one weekend, so like... deleting that and throwing in how stupid this year as been made me crankier and crankier.

Let's hope next year I'll be able to delete these answers and fill in something a lot perkier.
I think I'm just gonna go home. I won't pay the €200-300 to get that visa renewed; I'll just hang out either at this house or at my boyfriend's for a month and a half so I can see 1789 and maybe Flo and Mikele, then I'll go home before Halloween. After Christmas I'll move in with Kelley and get a job with her temp agency and apply for the spring semester at NYU.

I'm giving up on seeing London or Vienna or Cardiff, but I've run out of steam. Someone tell Máté and Billie Piper I love them.

I still haven't told that family no, but there's no way I have another year of au pairing in me. I'll talk to the family I'm living with and see how they feel about me staying, then I'll talk to the boyfriend, then I'll text everyone I know and make sure I tell them all goodbye.

I think I'll use visa stress and homesickness and timidity as my excuses to ditch this family rather than tell her that I couldn't handle those kids in my burned-out state. Maybe I'll offer to babysit until she finds someone else to bring in a little extra cash. I'm worried about my finances. I have to close my bank account.

Really? I just want to go home for a while and have a break from this paperwork nightmare and buttered noodles for every meal.
Hey, so can you please give me some feedback on this?

After my second trial day at the host family I felt a little better than I had the day before, but then by the time I got back to the house I'm staying in I fell apart. The kids are cute but they're awful awful brats: they fight all the time but refuse to play separately, they insult each other, they scream, they hurt each other, they whine, and they don't listen at all. I could probably handle that but... the mother is SUPER picky and obsessive about things and had me convinced that her kids were strictly-raised angels. The weird thing is, when they turn into little monsters she doesn't even notice, she just brushes it off and talks over their shrieks. She has a million rules and if everything isn't done *just right* she gets antsy and redoes it herself.

I like the mom, the kids love me, but iajdajfklsaf I don't want to.

I thought things would be okay because I won't work much more than 20 hours a week, they'll give me my own studio that's far from their family apartment, and they were offering €450 a month. WELL then I found out that that sum includes phone, navigo pass, laundry, and... there is no internet in the studio. They said I'd need to get a 3G thingy to stick in my USB port, meaning no streaming videos and being essentially charged by the hour. HELLO, I SPEND ALL MY WAKING TIME NEAR A LAPTOP. And once all that, plus the price of my French classes, come out of the €450, don't forget that ALL my food is my own responsibility as well. It's starting to not look like that much money at all.

The mom and dad are really cool, but... I can't. I just can't. I can't figure out wifi on top of all this horrible visa stress (mine expires in ten days, so I have TEN DAYS to go make my appointment to renew the thing) and I can't be so underpaid for such bratty kids and I can't work six days a week. I talked to my mom on skype, and she agreed that if I'm this freaked out after two four-hour days, I shouldn't sign the contract with them and get involved for a full year. They keep telling me they had tons of applications, and instead of feeling honored I got picked I guess I should feel relieved that they have backup.

But if I tell this family no too (afjdksajfsdfj i don't want to let them down!) that means I have ten days of valid French legality before I figure something out. I checked around and with a little bit of lying from my boyfriend claiming I live with him, I should be able to BS my way into renewing my current "au pair" visa as a student visa, giving me the right to legally work 30 hours a week. If that works, I've got to find housing (this seems kinda easy since I'm very willing to room with someone at this point) and, the hard part, a job to pay for that housing.

If none of it works out, I guess I just have to give up and go on home now. Cue a year of me living with my parents and trying to find part-time work in the small town I came from until I can apply to NYU. I do want to go home, but I'd like to stay in France at least until December, especially after conning poor Phoebe into being an au pair here to have a friend. She arrives the day my visa expires.

Honestly, once the visa expires it's not like they're going to send someone to my house to evict me, so I could do a lot of under-the-table stuff if necessary. I just want to stay until I see 1789 and have a chance to say goodbye to Flo. If I can't see Vienna and Neuschwanstein and even London and Cardiff I'll live. Just don't make me leave without seeing 1789 and Flo again.

So yeah, sometime tomorrow this host family is going to call me about paperwork, and I have to tell them I've changed my mind. Even thinking about saying that makes me want to cry because I'm such a wuss and a pushover but I can't imagine a full year of listening to those little boys scream at each other while the mom frets around at the way I folded their towels after the shower. Honestly. The five-year-old can't brush his teeth by himself and the seven-year-old can't dry himself off after his bath.

I'm so nervous right now. I need people to tell me I'm doing the right thing by turning this down.
lesmisloony: (squee ChanTho)
Welp, I did it! I got my dream family.

Technically we're going to do two trial days this coming week, but I can't see anything going to badly that we change our minds.

I was confident and honest and kind in the interviews, and I knew things were going well when, during the second interview, the dad turned to the mom and said, "Well, I like Erin." I'm so content.

There are two boys who are five and seven. They're adorable little black-haired nuggets and the older one has big round glasses. The little one climbed up his dad's arm like a monkey (just the way my little one in the last family and I played).

They're going to pay €500 a month (the previous family paid €360) and I will have my own tiny studio that's relatively far from their house. I work 4-8 Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday, then 8am-12 Wednesdays with Sundays and Mondays off.

They have a piano (the seven-year-old is learning to play). They have a sassy housekeeper who does the ironing. I only have to reheat meals most days, but Saturdays I'll actually cook, and only for the kids.

They're strict parents, but they were open, honest, straightforward, and funny. I felt comfortable talking to them. I told them that communication between me and them was very important, and they made it clear that they thought that was normal and I would have as much importance and power in the rule-keeping and disciplining as they do.

Got an au pair offer today.

The family lives between the PDS and Montparnasse (one of my favorite little neighborhoods for obvious reasons and because there are three multiplexes on the same corner and there are cheap shoes)... like, REALLY close to the PDS. Three tram stops plus one métro stop away from the PDS.

As for the living situation, it's a private room and bathroom on the first floor of the three-story family house. SIGH. I guess I can live with that. It wasn't pure hell last year.

Four kids... I forget the exact ages, but there are two little ones in the 5/6-ish neighborhood (a boy and girl), and two big ones that are 11 and 13 (also a boy and girl). I'll be mostly playing with the little ones and reminding the big ones to do their homework.

NO LAUNDRY. I just need to straighten the kids' rooms and, if the mom isn't there, deal with dinner for the kids (but NEVER for the parents... or for extended family members... or for dinner parties).

I will be responsible for two lunches a week, but from what I understood there are no early mornings involved. I kinda enjoy cooking. The kids are taken care of Wednesday mornings, but Wednesday afternoons they're with me. I can agree to take care of them Wednesday nights, too, with the knowledge that the mom is willing to pay me extra (I need MONEY) or, if not, she has a sitter on standby. Weekends free, obviously. €100 a week for 35 hours.

There's no piano, but the six-year-old has been asking to learn (sound familiar?) and when I said I played since I was seven the mom sounded really impressed and interested. Fingers crossed.

The mom and dad are both lawyers, and the mom seemed to know a lot about the paperwork for the visa. She said I can have friends stay over in my room as long as they don't interfere with the job and as long as it's not a boyfriend. NO NEED TO WORRY ABOUT THAT ONE MA'AM.

The only reserve I have is about the housing issue--not getting that separate apartment I want--but everything else seems like it'll be good. I'm SO wary. We're going to skype about it soon so I can "meet" the kids.

The thing about the apartment is... well, my goal is life is to have a job that pays me enough to have my own place in Paris. I want a permanent place that's really mine where I can have a piano and a sewing machine and a Venus flytrap. And maybe one of those hot pink cacti. Yeah. But if I get a separate apartment this year, yeah it'll be amazing and make my au pair experience much easier on me, but on the other hand... next year I'll downgrade to a worse living situation (probably) and I don't want the place I finally find on my own to be *worse* than what I was dealing with as an au pair. I want my success to be a huge relief. So yeah, that's how I've rationalized the housing thing.

Hmmmmmm yep. I had a long conversation with the lady and she seemed pretty nice. I think we were both very cautious as it's the first time for both of us that we've broken free of agencies that weren't doing their job. I'm really concerned that I'll end up in another bad situation.
Okay, so after this year I want DESPERATELY to live alone, apart from the family in a situation where I could stay on my bed all day and not be judged for it. As for kids, I prefer them to be on the younger side. More kids isn't a big problem because they all play together, whereas less kids means they need more attention from me all the time. I'm okay with cooking dinner but I am OVER IT with ironing. It's also a priority that I be in a decent neighborhood.

Families I found on craigslist:

KIDS: 3 yo boy, 1 yo girl
HOUSING: "student room provided if needed"
WORKLOAD: 30 hrs week including Wed & Fri afternoon
PAY: ?
LOCATION: Bastille area

KIDS: 9, 5, 7 yo girls, 1 yo boy
HOUSING: independent apartment on the same street
WORKLOAD: 22 hrs/wk
PAY: €350/mo
LOCATION: between Champs-Elysées and Parc Monceau (RICH neighborhood)

KIDS: 7 & 5 yo girls
HOUSING: "you have your own room"
WORKLOAD: 3pm-8pm weekdays plus 12pm-8pm Wed
PAY: all meals, "pocket money"
LOCATION: "a few hundred meters from l'Arc de Triomphe"
+ the kids like music and theatre

KIDS: 6 & 2 yo boys
HOUSING: studio apartment TEN MINUTES from family home
WORKLOAD: 20-25 hrs/wk, "light housekeeping"
PAY: €250/mo (plus phone/navigo)
LOCATION: Odéon (my favorite neighborhood)

KIDS: 5 yo boy
HOUSING: "your own room and independent bathroom in our apartment"
WORKLOAD: 16h30-19h00 M, T, Th / 9h - 19h Wed / Friday-Sunday FREE
PAY: €400/mo
+ piano

KIDS: 6, 12, & 13 yo girls
HOUSING: "an independent room on the top floor of their apartment building"
WORKLOAD: 25hr/wk
PAY: €100/wk
LOCATION: Rébuplique
+ ad posted by former au pair who calls them "sane and down-to-eath"

KIDS: 8 & 9
HOUSING: "walk-up studio, on the 7th floor, in the same street as our apartment, with a private bathroom and kitchen, fully renovated and furnished"
WORKLOAD: similar to current situation (dinner!) but no mention of housework
PAY: €400/mo
LOCATION: kinda close to the Eiffel Tower
Thanks so much for the replies on the entry I posted last night... the mom showed up around lunch and surprised me by saying I have the afternoon off, but I'm still keeping track of my hours and only have six more to go this week. Now I can wait till this evening or tomorow morning to mention that if I work more than six hours more I should get extra pay. I also have to show her all the money I've been spending taking her kid to parks and pools and stuff and assume she'll reimburse me.

For everyone who told me to report to my agency... that's where my real problem lies.

Remember when I was crying and asked if, after being yelled at constantly, I could leave my host family? Remember how the lady at the agency waved away my complaints with responses like "Oh, French people are hot-blooded, don't take it personally when they yell at you" and "Oh, well sometimes when I come home from work I'm too tired to do anything myself"? Well, I took that and picked myself up and kept going despite NOTHING GETTING BETTER.

When I said I'm in for a second year I asked for a family with young kids where I'd live apart from the family home. The French agency lady called me eventually with news on a family with a 13-year-old and, when asked, didn't have any idea where I was meant to live. It became really obvious really fast that she is on the families' side of ANY interaction, not the girls'. She called me for that family because they needed someone the weekend and she knew I don't go out partying or whatever, not because she gave a shit about any of MY requests.

I have been emailing asking for information on how to "renew my visa" for over two months and have never gotten a reply from her. Last week I CC'd the lady in New York on an email with the same questions, and SHE replied immediately... however, her response was essentially "Ask the lady in France, not me" and when I pointed out that this was the fourth or fifth time I'd asked the question, New York lady didn't answer. Sunday I finally texted Paris lady and asked my same questions: is there any news on the family you talked about to me two weeks ago, and what can I do to renew my visa? She replied partway through the next day that the family wanted someone with less experience (why didn't she ever tell ME that??) and that I needed to just be patient with the visa stuff. PATIENT MY ASS!

I started searching on my own, and I've found an amazing option through a mutual friend. It's her old host family from two years ago who live in an amazing rich neighborhood close to Champs-Elysées, already have a maid thus don't require ANY cleaning from their au pair, and would let me have a studio apartment next to the family apartment. There are three kids only a teeny bit older than the ones I kept this year, and they pay slightly more than the family I'm currently with. I'm in negotiations with them now, but I WANT THAT JOB SO BADLY that it's hard to act sane about it!

I've done a lot of googling and I've FINALLY understood this whole paperwork thing better. It's not my visa I'm renewing, it's my carte de séjour! Once you get to France you have to go get a medical exam done by OFII, and they put a sticker with your host family's address in your passport. That's the carte de séjour. The visa is essentially for newcomers and travelling, but the carte de séjour lets you stay, so that's the one you have to renew. If you renew a temporary carte de séjour for five years (for me this next year will be my third) you can then apply for a badass one that lasts TEN YEARS before you have to renew it. Basically, all this stress over visas was misplaced! I will NOT have to keep renewing my visa as long as I'm here, but instead the carte de séjour. This means... there is NO CHANCE I will be sent back to the Consulate in Georgia this summer! Phew!

But how did I get all this information? GOOGLE. My agency is not helping me with jack shit, and not once have they ever had my back. Monday night at midnight France Lady texted me to say she had a new family to propose to me and would have New York Lady email their file to me, but it's now midday on Wednesday and I have not received ANY email from them.

This agency charges about €200 a year for JACK SHIT. So for the people who suggested I report my frustrations to the agency... ha! I might as well report it to the family cat. I'm in this on my own. And that's why I don't want to go through this agency again next year: I'm paying them a shit ton for ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. For THEM doing my carte de séjour instead of me. Well fuck that, I'll do it myself and it'll only cost me €49.
Sometimes when I have a day off I choose to use it by staying in my pyjamas and staying in my room with nothing but my laptop. I leave the curtains drawn and only move from my bed to pee.

I have the right to do this with my day off. I have the right to enjoy solitude and taking a break from potentially-uncomfortable social interactions. I have the right to just lie here in a t-shirt and underwear and never decide which shoes to wear. I'm not doing anything wrong. I'm not trying to insult my host family.

There is no reason for them to feel uncomfortable if I chose to stay in my room today and not even come out to see what's for dinner. There is also no reason for *me* to feel uncomfortable about spending a full day watching Avatar and Drag U. This day was given to me as a free day, so we don't have any real obligations to each other. I understand that I had the right to come out and talk to everyone, but I feel that I also have the right to stay right here.

I hope that they understand that too when I rejoin them at breakfast tomorrow.

If they do send someone to knock and ask why I haven't come out or if I want dinner, I'll smile and answer that I don't feel like getting dressed today, so I'm just relaxing in here. I shouldn't be ashamed of this.


I went to the St-Denis campus yesterday, which is in kinda a sketchy-looking neighborhood made up of old, sketchy-looking buildings but there's something about it that just delighted me. There were trees and grass and students everywhere, and I guess it was just so similar to an American university campus that I was enchanted. The test began with the hot British professor not being able to turn on the lights and a gruff older professor telling us where to eat lunch while we waited for the results by saying that some restaurants were expensive and digusting and others were cheap and disgusting. Everyone was relaxed and cheerful and I immediately preferred the atmosphere to ÉSIT, the massive, sterile institution that I also tried to get into.

For a moment the test scared me: we were given two passages, one in French and one in English, and our assignment was just to translate each one. We had an hour and a half. I finished in forty-five minutes and checked over and over. There was one word I had no idea about, but I made a random guess. For the rest, I was proud. I had even successfully used the passé simple (thanks to all the Balzac I've been reading perhaps). As soon as I started translating I knew that this was work I was going to enjoy one day.

I checked over my test a hundred times until I almost had the passages memorized, then finally turned it in and killed three hours by wandering around the campus, befriending half the staff of their wonderful campus CROUS (the student restaurant that exists throughout France: I ate at one in Paris all the time last year and LOVED it, but this one was infinitely less crowed, more spacious, and staffed by super kind people--it's a huge meal for three euros!). As it got close to two and I was totally attached to the idea of St-Denis (I had already scoped out the bathrooms and decided which was clean enough for me to use all the time next year, plus looked at available housing in the immediate area) I went to see the test results, mentally practising for my interview.

Of course I was shocked when my name wasn't on the list. I read it over and over, blinking back tears, wondering if this was a mistake. I already loved the campus and the professors (especially the hot Brit) and the course content. All morning I had been reminding myself that I wouldn't survive another year as an au pair, and even if I was afraid of housing and finding a part time job and blah blah, being a student was the best way to get my life rolling.

I put on my sunglasses to hide my tears and wore them all the way back to the house, still occasionally wondering if I had somehow missed my name on the list. I looked up the word I hadn't known--my guess was way off--and started mentally composing an email for the lady at my agency.

There it is. I don't know why the universe wants me to spend another year of my life doing this, but it's done. I'll study at Campus Langues again, I'll look for scholarships this time and I'll apply to housing with CROUS so I can get a nice little apartment for less than €200 a month. I'll look for other programs. I'll apply to ÉSIT again. And when the time comes, St-Denis will receive the exact same application from me. Unless I've already gotten into a better school.

My email to the agency will specifically request a family that allows me to live separately from them, that will trust me to leave the room in the exact state I found it at the end of the year, and will have decent wifi and, for extra credit, a piano. I don't care how many kids there are or what their ages are. Maybe no kids older than, say, twelve, because it's harder to gain their trust and I don't want to deal with teenagers.
I think I'm back. I think it's over.

Yesterday I didn't cry at all the whole day. I even skyped my mom and talked about ever subject that's been setting me off, and I never had to choke back tears.

What changed? I have no idea, but the turning point was when I got half an hour to myself and used it to play the piano. It seems foolish, but this isn't the first time that has worked for me. How could a piano possibly be my miracle depression cure?

In even weirder news, these past two days my host mom and I... have kind of clicked. We're getting along. I don't know what's going on, but I like it.
Thanks for your help last night, guys.  I was tired when I posted, which always results in me being overly-emotional, so by the time I got sleep I felt a little better, and your comments were the best of all.  Thanks.

In other news, this just happened on the au pair board:

Girl 1: Not that I'm huge into airing out my dirty laundry but I thought I should share. The host family and I got along pretty well [...] We had a huge falling out when the parents came home for lunch one day and the table wasnt set and the kids had gotten water on the floor during their bath. The mom berated me and threw the plates on the table as I scurried to set the table and the dad proceeded to shout every curse word I know in French bc of the water on the floor (sidenote: water evaporates). I walked out of the house crying and didnt speak to them all weekend until Sunday when we had a sitdown and the father apologized. No worries, the mom didnt. She basically started yelling at me again, called me selfish, rude, lazy, disrespectful and said i overreacted by crying and walking out of the house to be in my room. At this point I realized there was no point trying to argue with "crazy". Since then things never went back to how they were. The relationship was super strained, their was always tension and I, of course, was extremely resentful. Their cleaning lady quit so I was expected to fill that role and eventually I came to the decision to leave the family bc...I damn well felt like it. :) I emailed them the other day as a letter or resignation from here in the US. Super sweet letter expressing my gratitude for everything but saying I had to stay in the states bc i wanted to be closer to my mother since shes been having heart troubles (lie) and telling them I understand theyll be disappointed but the children will forever be in my heart. Their response was to basically say im selfish again, i broke the childrens heart, im "so cool" for deleting the mom off facebook, they hope the kids forget about me and that i need to send them their keys and phone back for the next au pair whos room they now need to fix bc i left trash there (damn right i did! now YOU have to pick up MY trash!). they still owe me 400 euros for the navigo...theyre not getting shit back. With all this said, I moved my stuff out while they were on vacation to a new apt, kept Susan up to date, emailed them while I'm here in the states so i dont have to deal with their wretched stupidity in person and completely removed myself from a terrible environment and an even worse situation.. When I go back to Paris I will have my own place and will no longer have to be treated like an animal. im sharing this because i really want to say: Girls, you're almost there! Almost at the finish line! Congrats and keep your head up and dont ever let ppl mistreat you like these families have done EVER again. Props to everyone for making it out alive and mucho mucho love!

Me: I'm glad you escaped, I kinda wish I had the balls to do so but I know the right thing for me was to stick it out. Side note: I get yelled at at least once a month, like dramatic shouting and insulting everything from the clealiness of my room to my personality to the fact that I don't tend to vacuum their floors. When I brought this up to [the agency lady], she kind of brushed it off saying French people have hot tempers. So... are you guys all getting yelled at? Because sometimes it makes me go into my room and cry. I feel like this is abnormal.

Girl 2: That's because it IS. I can't believe [the lady] brushed that off!

Girl 3: ive actually never had the problem of the parents yelling at. the minute one of them did, i would have been out. And actually i told my host mom that them yelling at their kids made me feel uncomfortable (b/c my parents never yelled at us)and they have pretty much stopped yelling at their kids. Just wanted to share this so that everyone knows that there are nice, sane families out there and you shouldn't have to settle for less.

I see.

I'm fine though, whatever.  As long as I get a nice family next year (assuming I don't get into school, that is).
I think I've just totally burned out. Last week's meltdown I got through in the end, but yesterday's lecture on my personality just kind of broke me.

I know I can stay. I did a countdown on my calendar and there are only six Wednesdays left. It'll probably pass quickly since I'm so busy.

Maybe this is what a very mild case of depression would feel like. I just don't have any motivation left. I leave my room, I do what I'm told, I work as hard as I know how to, but I don't care anymore. What am I supposed to do? It's *me* they don't like, not my work.

Looking at housing info for next year (assuming I get into the masters program) is a bright point of my free time. Though I might have to consider being assigned a roommate in order to pay a lot less each month, which could be kinda weird, although at least it would just be a roommate and not a BOSS living with me.
Earlier this week I got a surprise email from my last-year host family saying that they'd received a letter for me. They invited me over to lunch to pick it up and to catch up, so I went Saturday.

I was pretty nervous. Last year when I lived with them I was so lost in my own little MOR world that I basically locked myself in my messy little room to the point where I skipped meals and spent entire days lying in bed knitting and internetting. I've become convinced that they thought I was crazy. I also barely spoke to them because I was so flustered and weird all the time and I felt bizarrely guilty for living in their house.

Anyway, but I headed on over there, delighted at how automatically I was able to retrace my steps, and when I arrived I was only awkward for a few minutes before we were all just great friends. We gossipped about everything from the students they're hosting this year to my current host family to their own experiences as au pairs (both the daughter, who's my age, and the mother have done au pair work). I stayed three hours and they congratulated me over and over on my French.

I spend so much time around my current host family that I've wound up with some form of Stockholm Syndrome. I figure that the problem is me and assume that the whole world is like that and I just need to lower my expectations, but for the third time (German Lara's family, boyfriend's family, now this) I've discovered (and been surprised to realize) that I'm actually pretty charming and people DO usually like me. With my current host family I'm the shy introverted weirdo who doesn't understand the glory of organized sports and can't entertain herself doing normal things like throwing a ball at someone. I'm the loser who wastes all her time on the computer and doesn't care about her own security to the point where she puts pictures of herself online. And yet when I'm around anybody else I feel like a confident, organized, daring adventurer who knows how to be polite and respectful but can also talk for ages on most subjects--in French if necessary.

My old host family complimented my French over and over, by the way. I told them that one of my first conversations with my new host mom had been her telling me that my French was nowhere near as good as the last-year au pair's and that my accent was so strong it was hard to understand me. The old host family all disagreed resoundingly (my professor had the same reaction to that story) telling me that I was easy to understand and they had barely noticed any grammar mistakes. They were all assuring me that I spoke quickly and well and they were incredibly impressed with the progress I've made in the past year.

I felt so great leaving there, even after the conversation had tipped to politics (first round of elections are today!) and I found out that I was sitting in a very right-wing Sarkozy-friendly living room. I'm pretty sure Hollande will take this one. Which is good, because Sarko wants to make it really hard for foreigners to study in France or to get citizenship here. Gah Sarko. My professer likes to say "Si Sarkozy repasse, je me casse" which is basically if Sarkozy gets re-elected I'm getting the hell out. It's cute.

What am I talking about? Oh yeah! So I've been worrying about August, because I leave my current host family at the end of July and the only foyer (public dorm) I've found that's open over the summer is asking for €665 a month. If I study I won't get into a cheaper foyer until September, and if I au pair again the family probably won't need me until around the same time, if not a bit later. Old host family to the rescue! They're going out of town all summer for a daughter's wedding in Italy, so they offered to let me stay alone in their three-story house (with piano, four bedrooms, and an awesome kitchen) for only €300. I haven't said yes yet, but I feel pretty sure I will.

Now I just need to make sure I'm allowed to enroll at St-Denis (Paris VIII) to get my masters and I've got it all figured out!
lesmisloony: (XD Shoujo Cosette)
boyfriend boyfriend boyfriend boyfriend

relationships are fun

This weekend I met his entire family. They let me join them for Easter dinner and we hid eggs and it wasn't awkward at all and as we were leaving I thanked his (American) mom for letting me be there and she said, "Of course! It's a family holiday!" It was exactly the way I felt at German Lara's house: maybe I'm not as awkward and shy and weird as living with this host family makes me think I am.

Since I haven't posted in a while, I'll say that I didn't make the cut into my second-choice masters program, ÉSIT. I took an entrance exam. I was one of at least four hundred people (over half of which were native French speakers) and on the final list of a hundred applicants accepted to take the second exam, every name was distinctly French or distinctly Asian-looking. I think they wanted rarer languages than French and English. I read online that they were like that, though.

My first-choice program wants a level C2 in French. I'm taking a test in a couple of weeks that'll give me a level, and I'm very likely to have a C1 instead. I'm studying, reading Balzac and daily newspapers, but I'm still very worried. If I don't get this C2, I'll have to wait till September to reapply, meaning renewing my visa without knowing for sure whether I'll be a student or an au pair next year.

So yeah, I'm coming to terms with the idea of au pairing again. Just one more year until my French is good enough to get into a translation program. At least it would be for a different family, I guess... MEGA SIGH. And at least I have my boyfran to remind me that I have a life outside of this job...

In other news, I got accepted into TAPIF (they wanted me to teach elementary kids at a school in Versailles) but since I can't afford to return to the US to change my student visa to a work visa, I had to turn them down.
Slowly navigating the hot mess that is trying to be an adult in a foreign country.

First, I must wait till May to apply to live in my dream foyer, la Fondation des États-Unis, for the summer. Who knows, maybe it'll be like the Foyer des Étudiantes Internationales on St-Michel and be hella noisy at night or something like that and I won't want to take up permanent residence there upon going back to school.

Yesterday I went to a meeting at St-Denis Université (Paris 8) for people interesting in their translation master and ughhhhhhhh I want it so badly my lungs were silently screaming through the whole meeting. I came rushing home afterward to start my application process, only to be hit with a demand for proof of a C2 level in French. Once again, I'm pretty sure I'm still going to test as C1. However, today I'm going by l'Alliance Française to sign up to take one of the official tests (the TCF) and I'm going to email the director of the program and ask if there's any way I could apply if I come out with only a C1, telling her how much I want this master and how I've already done a bit of freelance translation work and my whole future depends on it. If she says no, I can still wait and apply in September instead of May, hoping that a lot of study and practice will bump me up that second level.

Meanwhile, I'm taking the first of two (or three?) entrance exams for another translation masters at la Sorbonne Nouvelle (Paris 3) on April 2nd. That program is called ÉSIT, and is a lot more popular and well-known to foreign students than the TL3 at St-Denis. I don't have high hopes of being accepted there.

I don't think I could stand to au pair again. I'm going to check the visa requirements and see if there's a way I could live in a foyer somewhere and just work and take a class on my student visa rather than doing this shit for another year. Too much work, not enough vacation, and I cannot stand this weird concept of living at my workplace. I never can tell if I'm hanging out or being tricked into working overtime...
Just wanted to stop by real quick and say that Thursday and Friday went wonderfully for the most part! I played with the kids so hard that both my knees are super bruised, no one fought with me, I passed moments chatting with the grandparents, an uncle who lives in Germany showed up and was incredibly nice, etc etc etc

On Friday the four-year-old crawled into my lap every change he get and ended up telling me I'm his girlfriend and he loves me and wanted me to sit next to him at the surprise birthday party for his dad. Then the eight-year-old was dancing around saying "I love Ehreen I love Ehreen I love Ehreen". The grandparents must have drugged them or something because I've NEVER seen them be that adorable with me. I felt like a super badass.

Of course, things went a little awry around 1:30 am. The surprise party was alright. There were 30 people, about half of whom I recognized and about two of whom I felt comfortable talking to if the approached me first. I chatted with anyone who started a conversation with me, and when I tried to talk to the last-year-au-pair, she told me I was tipsy because I was talking so much. Alright, sorry for trying to be nice.

Then everyone started dancing, so I went and sat in a corner and watching and laughed and clapped. People kept telling me to dance but, like... dancing in front of strangers is not a fun pasttime for me. I feel clumsy and stressed. I spent most of the night texting Vincent, who was at a party for a coworker. The people trying to drag me out onto the floor (including my host mom, the grandmother, the last-year-au-pair, and even the damn DJ!) wouldn't stop, so I went into the kitchen and washed dishes for a while.

Eventually I ended up collapsed on a chair making a sleepy face and wishing everyone would go home, but when I heard the kids' favorite song come on and saw them all rush over to the DJ I got to my feet. The DJ handed them a microphone and I was all happy and supportive of them while they sang in front of the crowd. Then I saw my host mom whispering something to the DJ.

As soon as the kids' song ended... L'Assasymphonie came on. On one hand it was kinda almost touching that she thought of me, but on the other hand I DON'T WANT TO PERFORM FOR THESE STRANGERS. Especially a song THAT emotional geez. And the host mom shoves the microphone into my hand and is like "for six months you've been torturing us with this song, so now sing it!" but I just held the microphone and laughed uncomfortably and tried to get the kids to sing with me but they all refused. I didn't know what to do, but I honestly couldn't have made myself sing in front of those people. I have never realized how LONG L'Assasymphonie is.

When it ended, the eight-year-old, bless her precious heart, asked the DJ to play Ça ira mon amour, which is a song all three kids (including the little one) know perfectly. Unfortunately, it was 1h30 then and the boys were too tired to participate, so the girl held the mic and I sort of sang next to her (which resulted in my host mom yelling that I needed to put the microphone closer to my mouth cause she couldn't hear me). It was so embarrassing. Afterwards I went over to the little one and asked why he hadn't sung, and he kicked me and told me to go away. Sleepy. Meanwhile someone asked me host mom to sing and she said she didn't want to. No one had a problem with this.

Then a man I hadn't exchanged any words with and had never seen before in my life came up to say good night, since he was leaving. I bisou'd him obendiently and then he yelled into my ear in French over the music, "Americans are supposed to be fun and dance and sing. You're not doing a good job representing your country." I was taken aback, but I sort of went, "Ok?" and smiled the way I always smile at assholes. Then he added in English "Next time, I hope to see you do better." and he said good night and left.


That was just too much humiliation. I went to my room and cried while the dumbass party raged on. When I texted Vincent about it he left the bar where *his* party was happening so he could call me and understand why I was upset and try to cheer me up. Even though he was quite drunk. At 2am. It was the nicest thing a guy has ever done for me.

Anyway, I'm off to his place for Dr Who and home-made sushi. Have a good weekend, Internet!
Host Mom: *walking straight into my room* Ehreen? What are we eating for dinner tonight?
Me: Uhh I don't know? The last two times I started to make dinner your mother told me she had already done it, so...
Host Mom: So-- *wrinkles her nose, looks around my room* You need to open the windows. There's a smell in here. You have to open the windows more often. I don't know if it's your shoes, or-- you don't smell it?
Me: No?
Host Mom: Well it smells. Anyway, will you go buy some bread?
Me: Okay...
Host Mom: So we don't know what we're eating for dinner tonight. *walks away*

(What does buying bread have to do with childcare?)

I'm just gonna start doing this.
Host Dad: Did you have a good weekend?
Me: Yes, thank you. I'm tired.
Host Dad: Did you do a lot of things?
Me: No, we watched a show.
Host Dad: If you didn't move, how are you tired?
Me: I- I got back at 1am.
Host Dad: Well that was a choice.

If ever I had had a first date that went as well as my first day of class at my new language school did today, I would be typing this as a married woman.

First, the way they do stuff. They will do ANYTHING to get you into a class that's suitable for your schedule and your French level (they also teach English and two other languages--I think Spanish and Arabic maybe?) Also, new students are welcome to drop in every Monday. Your tenure will be one or three months, but it seems easy to extend it. You can enroll for whichever days are easiest for you. Classes are held daily, but each day stands alone, so you don't have the impression you're missing anything. You know what else that means? There's NO HOMEWORK.

In my situation they actually were awesome enough to bump me up another level, meaning for the first time in my nine plus years of studying French, I know what it's like to find something CHALLENGING. They put me into the highest level, C2, and I find I can keep up with the other kids just fine. In fact, I'm a little ahead of a few of them. I think I would test as C1 or even B2 on a bad day. For the first time, the worksheet had questions I couldn't answer. I was delighted to leave them blank and wait for the professor to fill us in. I learned more today than I'd learned in the past... well, in any given week of my entire French education. We learned modern, useful terminology. We discussed climate change and now I know that "effet de serre" means greenhouse effect. I know that "couche" means layer as well as a hundred other things, which came in handy a few hours later when I heard people on the news reference "une couche de neige" (a layer of snow). I learned three uses for "planter": to plant something, to stand someone up/leave them in a lurch, or (in the case of a computer) to stop working. I used it in the second sense this evening as I told the mom about escourting one of the kids home from school. I learned that "allumé" not only means on, but it also means "crazy" if you're referring to a person. It goes on.

The best part? Is the professor. He's so hip he has difficulty seeing over his pelvis. He's so cool you could keep a side of meat inside him for months. He was funny and warm and so smart and easy to listen to. He engaged everyone, he didn't judge the late kids, he harumphed around the room fussing over the heater, he made great jokes, and I literally sat through the whole class with a smile on my face.

The best thing? Is that there are only seven people in my class.

In short, if you are in Paris for any reason, especially as an au pair, I HIGHLY recommend Campus Langues.

I have been to Institut Parisien and, despite my being enrolled there and paying full price, they refused to put me into a class that worked with my au pair schedule and I was forced to be thirty minutes late every day. Even when I started to enroll for a second semester they refused to guarantee me a place in the later class. Plus, even though I was supposed to be in a higher level course I felt that the class was obnoxiously uneven and I was often frustrated and found myself doodling while the professor explained basic concepts to other students. I considered moving to France Langue, which most au pairs seem to love, but when I arrived the trimester had already begun and there was no more room for me in one of the classes, so they shrugged and said sorry.

When I wandered in Campus Langues a month after the "trimester" had begun, they went out of their way to make sure I could enroll there.

Class with them is every day of the week (except Wednesday when I have to stay home with the kids) and I don't even mind losing my free time while the kids are at school. I don't mind at all. I'm excited to go back and to finally, FINALLY learn one of the few subjects that makes me happy.


Dec. 23rd, 2011 12:57 pm
Well, the neck pain has persisted for a little over a week now.

Tonight I'm going to Germany.

Yesterday was interesting.  I had my date.  We talked for a long time, I drank a Bloody Mary (AWFUL), and then we walked along the Seine, a weird vendor tricked him into buying a Santa hat which he gave to me, and he kept sliding closer to me and saying he was cold.  And he would use any excuse to put an arm around me or whatever.  Like, embarrassed that the vendor tricked him?  Put his forehead on my shoulder.  That kind of stuff.  And I was like welp I imagine I know where this will lead.

And sure enough, I was in the middle of talking about a car horn or something when he started kissing me.  I figured what the hell, I'll kiss back.

I guess it won't ever be the way it was with my dumbass again.  I just thought he was so magical and we wanted each other for months.  There was so much buildup and so much obsession.  I don't hold any grudges against him anymore.  I just kind of miss the person I thought he was.  I miss that person a lot.  I expected too much from him.  But now that I've started thinking about other things too I understand why I cross his mind so infrequently.  I don't mind.  I'm a little bit sad, but I'll soldier on.

Anyway, my goal was to kiss someone else before the end of the year, and I did it.  It wasn't magical or exciting or anything, but I'm glad it happened and I'll be glad to see him again when I get back from Germany.

Then I went to see a little production of Les Liaisons dangereuses, my favorite movie and one of my favorite books, and... I knew I'd been feeling poorly, but... well... twenty minutes into the show, I threw up.

It was a tiny theatre, I was in the second row, and the actresses were standing less than ten feet away from me when suddenly that Bloody Mary came spewing back into being.  All over every item of clothing I was wearing.  I sat there stunned for a second, then got up and hurried to the back of the theatre where I saw a technician and was in the middle of saying "J'ai vomi--" when another round came out.  And then another.  He grabbed a trash can for me and I threw up two more times.  He led me to the bathroom where I tried to clean up in the sink.

My face.  My hair.  My turtleneck.  My favorite dress.  All the space between my turtleneck and my favorite dress.  My tights.  My legwarmers.  My boots.  My scarf.  My underwear.  EVERYTHING.

I spent ages contorting over that sink, trying to get the most obvious chunks off.  It was so awful.  Finally a lady appeared and asked if I wanted her to call the firemen.  THE FIREMEN?  Gah France wtf.

She asked if I wanted to go back and watch the rest of the show, and I was like, Lady, I reek of tomato juice vomit.  I just need to lie down.  She was so sweet though, telling me not to be embarrassed and not to worry about it and reassuring me that the other people in the theatre don't know me, blah blah.  It was really sweet.  I finally managed to go back in to collect my bag and coat, whispering a "désolée!" to the people who were sitting around my little vomit puddle, and hurried back out.  I was drenched and putrid and... now I had to take the métro home.

Most awkward métro ride ever.  I tried to smoosh my drippy stinky self into corners, but after a few minutes I could always see other people in the train start to sniff and look around.  It took so long.  I finally arrived home and immediately stripped everything off and started a load of wash, but the smell was on me too.  I showered, but I was too dizzy to stay upright long so I had to lie down.  The smell was still there, so I had to shower again with more soap once I had collected my balance.

When I told my host family they gave me the day off, but there isn't anyone else to watch the kids.  I was glad to lie back down, but the kids are on their own and after an hour or so they started fighting and I had to come break it up.  I played board games with them for a few hours until their mom came in, sent me back to bed (yay!) and is now feeding them lunch.  I've eaten a clementine and a compote (apple sauce stuff) today, and that's it.  I have no appetite and get easily nauseated.

And tonight I have a nine-hour train ride to Germany.  Add in my neck pain and... maybe I could just kill myself?

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