Not sure what I'm feeling...

Thanks to the people who helped point out what should have been obvious to me re: the craigslist scams.  I blithely didn't see a way that those approaches would backfire, though obviously the whole thing seemed VERY strange.  I'm glad people helped me catch it before it cost me or got me into trouble.

I just really want a job.

Like... I want to have money again.  I want to be able to grab a Subway sandwich if I want to, or to try the famous New York pizza everyone talks about.  Even when I was an au pair I could usually justify buying a pair of shoes here and there, but with no income I totally panic and stop spending anything at all.  My roommates won't stop shaming me for sticking around the apartment.  I don't think they realize that $2.50 for a one-way trip in the métro is really unreasonable and adds up.

I'm considering getting the kind of job I was hoping to avoid, like retail or waitressing, and then trying for an unpaid internship just for the sake of getting experience somewhere, but I don't know if that kind of thing could really work.  I think I got really depressed today because all my responses from craigslist (except one that didn't go anywhere after a week of "maybes") turned out to be scams.

I'd accidentally started thinking about what I could do with all the money they promised I'd make, you know?  For starters, I want a mattress.  I want to pay off my student loans.  I want a bed frame.  I want warm winter-appropriate shoes.  I want to have meals rather than make one big vat of brown rice and vegetables and eat off of that for two weeks.  I want that giant portrait of the Seine that I saw in Ikea the other week.

I miss Paris every day, and it's making me gloomy.  I really thought being in a big city would help, but I picked a terrible time to come out here.  It's too cold to really explore and I'm too poor to spend much money on the subway, so I'm stuck in a really crummy neighborhood remembering how sweet and gorgeous Paris was.  Just aesthetically I miss Paris, and I miss the métro.

I'm kind of bummed out, I guess.  I knew not to put 100% of my faith in that job thing the way I knew not to develop too much attachment to Maktav: when I got let down as I suspected I eventually would, it hurt a lot more than it was supposed to.
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'm back!

Protip everyone: if you're having trouble breathing AT ALL, go ahead and head on over to your nearest hospital. Turns out what I had was a pulmonary embolism, meaning sitting for hours with my legs crossed (and taking birth control) had caused a blood clot in my legs which had then travelled up and lodged itself in the aorta thing that leads from my heart to my lungs, all but blocking the blood to my lungs. And, trying to be a champ or whatever the hell I was doing, I thought I'd just wait it out. If that clot had gone any higher in my body I might have actually suffered brain damage. And apparently my body is a damn trooper, because the fact is I first noticed a little bit of chest pain SUNDAY, but I thought it was just being out of shape. Tuesday night I fainted and from that point forward breathing hurt. Wednesday I was convinced I would be fine (I think I have a disorder or something, but I remember when my dad broke his foot a couple years ago he also insisted he was fine and limped around the house for a day and a half before he finally let us take him to the ER). When I woke up Thursday and the problem hadn't changed AT ALL my boyfriend convinced me to call the hospital.

They sent a doctor over and he didn't know what the deal was, so he called us up an ambulance. It took them AN HOUR to get to the place. I grabbed my purse and jacket and headed out, assuming they'd give me a pill or something and I'd be back online before dinner.

When they first started saying I'd have to be in the hospital for "quelques jours" [several days] I actually burst into tears. I was really freaked out for the first day or so. They kept me in ICU for a day or two, then moved me out early because they needed the room. I had a room that was bigger than Vincent's entire apartment, but unfortunately the TV wasn't free and there was no wifi, so Vincent brought me my laptop and (new) external hard drive, and I spent the rest of my Parisian hospital adventure watching Torchwood, RTD Who, Horrible Histories, Conan, and videos of me and my friends goofing off in the dorms.

I wasn't allowed out of the bed until Monday, meaning I had to use a bedpan. When they did let me up I couldn't believe how utterly delighted I was to go to a toilet on my own. My whole bed confinement had consisted of me avoiding drinking water and holding it in in order to spare myself the embarassment of ringing for the nurse to put that damn thing under my ass and having to essentially SOIL MYSELF and ughhhh gross. Luckily I never did numbah two in the bedpan... I held that in till Monday evening when they let me stand up.

I could see the top half of the Eiffel Tower from the window of my hospital room, which was pretty cool. Honestly it was kinda nice to stay in a clean, quiet environment for a few days with three average meals brought to me and no one being surprised when I just stayed in bed watching movies all the time. The downside was all the needles that were coming at me. I had to get a shot morning and night with this horrible stuff that burned like HELL. They had to thin my blood so no more clots will form, and I'm on a pill that I'll be taking for at least six months. Every morning they woke me up around 6 or 7 to draw blood, but since I have deep veins there was this one hot dumb nurse guy who could never find them and would just dig around in there and OW SIR.

Basically, my thighs and stomach are covered in bruises and puncture marks from the shots, my inner elbow crease thingies and the backs of my hands are also bruised and punctured from blood being drawn, and WHY ARE IV'S A GOOD IDEA?!? My IV hand is still all bruised and cripped and OW AGAIN.

Anyway, I'm doing my best to never cross my legs though it turns out that is my absolute default sitting position. They say as long as I'm on this medication it should be impossible for new clots to form, but they're also edgy about me taking a plane in less than twenty days. I didnt mention my eleven hour train ride to them at all... nothing the doctors say will make me change my flight. I will DIE if I have to stay here much longer. I am such a homesick motherfucker, like you can't even understand. I dreamed I was home multiple times over the past week and my heart broke every time I woke up and realized it wasn't true. I'll wear the fancy tights they're going to give me and I'll get up and walk a bit once an hour or so and I assume I'll be fine.

Oh, I'm never allowed to take birth control again, by the way. So... buckle up for my period to come back in full force. I did not miss the days of crippling cramps and my sudden urges to punch everyone who looked at me.

The hardest part is that I had to miss stagedooring the avant-premier of 1789, and of course Flo was there. So there's a really good chance I've missed my last ever chance to see him. I sent him a message on his myspace saying that if he one day realized I had disappeared it wasn't because I stopped following his career but because I got hospitalized and then went back to the US, but after sending it I saw he hasn't logged onto that page since Valentine's Day. So I think I've lost him. I'm going to try hanging out at the train station next Friday and Saturday in hopes of catching him or Mikele on the way to Lyon for the foot concert, but it's either that or they happen to show up for 1789 a day I'm there...
Alright, so Monday October 22nd I leave Paris. That night my girls and I have a sleepover in New York, and the next morning I take the train to my hometown. Total price: €464.

I'm actually really excited to spend Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas back on familiar territory with familiar faces and familiar food. And Flossie.



FLOSSEHHHHH


I got a really mean email from the host family I let down, which just cements my contentment at not spending a year with them.
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.
Today I had my first "trial day" with this host family, and I'll probably say something about it later in a relevant post. On the way out, around 9pm, I was heading out the door and the host mom, who's a self-avowed "maniaque" (wordreference suggests "fusspot", I'd suggest "paranoid") began fretting that it was nearly dark and I was planning to walk home alone.

I thought that was silly. I'm starting my third year in Paris, and it was a fifteen to twenty minute walk that I had made countless times before, often in the wee hours of the morning after a night of stagedooring! Anyway there's no métro line that goes directly back to the area where my boyfriend/current host family live, so it's just faster to go on foot.

But somehow her attitude put me on edge for the rest of the night, and when I left Vincent's house shorty after midnight I realized I was totally jumpy. I was wearing a short dress and my hair in an intricate braid that wrapped partway around my head, which reminded me of all the things they tell you rapists look out for. There's always a group of really frightening "youths" lounging out front of an abandoned building near Vincent's place, plus a weird construction yard where a guy sits in his car all night and his enormous dog terrifies anyone who dares use the sidewalk on the other side of the chain link fence. Normally these things make me nervous, but tonight they were horrifying.

Then a car pulls up against the curb, and the lone man inside starts calling to me, asking me to make a phone call. I shout back that I can't and he hears my accent and switches to English, asking the same question over and over. He's only a few feet away from me, the street is empty, everything is dark, and, for the millionth time, I realize I have no way to defend myself. When I don't slow down or approach the car, the guy speeds off around the traffic circle, then passes me again on the other side of the road.

I was absolutely convinced that he was going to turn around and come back for me, and it was all I could do to remain calm. This is saying something, because normally I'm a pretty level-headed motherfucker in crisis situations. My eyes were filling with tears and my heart was pounding; I hadn't been that scared since my walk back to the train station in Belgium. Every time I heard a car approaching in the distance I began to panic inside. I did the thing where you put your keys between your fingers and make a fist, but keys in France are all different sizes and I knew that wasn't going to work as a weapon if the guy came back. The whole way home I felt hunted, and when I finally arrived I locked the door even though it doesn't have a working knob and can only be opened by a key AND is behind a tall fence that an attacker also wouldn't have a key to.

I got home and decided that I never want to feel that helpless again, so I started trying to figure out how I could get pepper spray in Paris. Even if I never use it, knowing I had something would keep me from getting so upset when things like this happen (which... is every couple of months). And that was when I got REALLY upset.

Every. Fucking. Website. Was. Useless. Anyone who has ever asked the internet for advice on self-defense in Paris or Europe is met with "Europe is much safer than America" type responses. People said everything from, "Why would you need pepper spray if you're not doing something stupid?" to "I guess I've never been attacked in Paris because I only ever go out expecting to have fun, not to get into a fight" to "Just don't go anywhere alone if you're a girl!"

FUCK THOSE USELESS RESPONSES. FUCK VICTIM BLAMING. I was TERRIFIED tonight, and it's not because I was ~*stupid*~ to be in a ~*dangerous*~ neighborhood or whatever, because I wasn't, I was walking a way I've gone a thousand million times. I was lucky that nothing happened and I've always been lucky but I DON'T LIKE TO BE AFRAID.

I'm trying to figure out how I can get one of these delivered to France, because the fourth or fifth page I read had some throwaway comment about pepper spray being illegal here or something.
I feel good again.

Well, physically I'm absolutely suffering because it's been about 100 degrees Fahrenheit for the past several days and air conditioning barely exists here. Thank the sweet Lord I have a fan in my room, but right now I'm in a chair with the fan blowing straight at me on high and there's still so much sweat rolling down my legs it makes me wonder if I peed myself. It seems so dumb to me that people here don't have air conditioning in their homes. I spend the whole day feeling light-handed and chugging water.

The problem with my life is, I'm more socially lazy than anyone I know, because to be more socially lazy than me you're probably a hermit and NOBODY knows you. Given the smallest opportunity, I will spend any day in pyjamas. It's Sunday and I haven't left this house since Wednesday and that was only because I'd completely run out of food. I'm kind of proud of that, actually.

HOWEVER, that's not a good way to be when you want to start a new life for yourself and make new friends and stuff. I could have made new friends here if I'd been more outgoing and pushy or whatever, but I'm not wired that way. For me, there's "best friends for LIIIFE" and "acquaintances", and I feel weirdly abandoned by anyone in an in-between category.

When I was a little kid, my parents pressured me into joining a local soccer team. I thought the sport was okay, but obviously I wasn't athletic so I seem to recall I spent most of my time wandering around on the field, more interested in the CapriSuns we were going to get at half time than who was winning the game. The other kids were cruel to me, constantly telling me how much they wanted me to quit and how I was the most useless person on the team. I left practices and games alike in tears, and at the end of every season my concerned mother would pull me aside and ask if I was sure I still wanted to play. I would always say yes, just because I didn't want those girls to have their way and get to play without me. One year I finally realized that I was making myself miserable and changed my mind. I never regretted leaving that team, but it was hard for me to admit that, deep down, I did want to. I wasn't as strong as I wanted to be.

That's what's happening here in Paris, in a way. The world acted like I wouldn't be able to do it and I should give up, and in my determination to prove them wrong I stopped thinking about what I wanted.

The last time I left Paris, I didn't want to. I came back to muggy, humid North Carolina and found myself in a living situation I couldn't afford with no idea what my next move should be and no desire to move forward when, as far as I knew, my glamorous groupie life was on the other side of the ocean. So I fought and I dragged myself back over here, only to find that my groupie life wasn't in Paris, it was in the past. Not only did I find that out, but I learned that as a foreigner my rights to employment were limited, and as a product of the American education system I was considered borderline talentless. According to my host family, kids start figuring out what career they want in high school and they study the same subject straight through to their masters or higher, then funnel directly into the job and stay there for life. According to them, my being a college graduate with a broad area of study and no clue what I wanted my life to be was abnormal. It wasn't until recently that I remembered that that mindset was pretty much specific to what I've seen since coming here, and in the US people in their 20's are still considered young and are told they have time to make mistakes and figure things out. I'm 23, and my host family was nagging me about how I needed to find a career and start planning to have a family! (We won't get into how I've never wanted a family and always been skeptical of the idea of marriage right now.)

So yeah. Maybe I'll perk up working for a new family this year, but it won't change the fact that I'm lonely, unwilling to invest in making new friends, and blocked from the locals by both differences communication and background. Here I'm already expected to have marketable skills at my age, so unless I want to get into many years of schooling surrounded by younger people, I'm only slightly qualified for a couple of jobs, and even in those situations I will immediately be passed over in the event that a French person or EU citizen could do it instead.

Worse, I've never been a great student, and here I would have to work twice as hard as everyone else to get a masters because the classes and coursework would be in French. My knowledge of French is an amazing advantage in the US and a crippling disability here.

NOT TO MENTION AIR CONDITIONING EXISTS IN THE UNITED STATES. JESUS CHRIST I'M MELTING.

I've been crying over missing my friends since... late May, I think?

I don't know when I decided New York City was my dream... it must have been about the time I first saw Les Mis on Broadway, when I was... 14? Then when I was 18 I spent a week there with just my friend--my first big trip without my parents, planned and financed entirely by me!--and after that I was obsessed. Everyone told me it was hard to "make it" in New York but, stubborn me, I was going to prove them all wrong as soon as I graduated.

Except then I accidently a France. France and MOR and Flo and a D-list celebrity who wanted to bang me! Obviously I wanted to keep all that attention and positive feedback and admiration and stuff. But then I found out the hard way that that stuff wasn't coming from France, it was coming from the Troupe and MOR fans. And that's done. Now I'm just another immigrant, literally a second-class citizen.

Ever since I decided to consider going back to the US and taking on NYC with my girls, my whole mood has changed. I keep thinking of things I would be able to do there: Halloween, for instance, and AIR CONDITIONING UGHH THIS IS INHUMANE and buying groceries I recognize and shopping at stores that carry my size and just everything, oh gosh. Spending Christmas with my family.

Do I hate Paris now? Absolutely not! How could I? Will I miss it? Almost definitely.

Is going back the right choice for me right now? I feel pretty sure that it is.

Then I found out that NYU is the number one ranked school for getting a masters in translation... so I made up my mind. I can't stop thinking about how great it will be to be in my own country again, surrounded by people I love and capable of hugging my mom and petting her stupid dog Flossie till she pees all over the driveway.

My mom is trying to pretend to be very level-headed about this decision, but I can tell she's absolutely freaking out with excitement and relief at the idea of having one of her kids back (my brother has gone to Chile to teach English, and he's currently got one week to find new housing or he'll end up on the street, plus he already spent all his money on concert tickets or something and can't afford food, also did I mention he doesn't speak Spanish?).

I'll miss this city. I'll miss the métro. I'll miss muesli crostillant cereal and cheap fancy cheeses and weird animals being served up as acceptable dinner meat. I'll miss Flo constantly. But it's not worth it. I've frankly been unhappy for months now, and this decision is what's turning my mood around at last. So I guess I was right when I figured everything happens for a reason, and there was a HUGE reason for me not to get into a masters program this year: not only was I unprepared for housing and financial aid and part-time job things, but I also didn't have it in me to set up a future so far away from my people. I never would have imagined that it was the idea of making a life for myself in Paris that was making me cry myself to sleep all the time, but that's what happens to us stubborn kids. We don't want people to think we're giving in.

Did I tell you, I'm in the process of dumping the first host family I agreed to after having been contacted by one with two kids instead of four that will give me my own apartment that's so far away from their home that they're going to give me a meal plan as well? So I'll get that apartment in Paris after all. Just... maybe not the venus flytrap and cactus, unless someone wants to adopt them from me when I move out. Or I could go illegally plant them in a park somewhere... haha.

Anyway, now I'm getting together a Europe bucket list, and London and Vienna are definitely on there. I hope I can get that stuff done without blowing all my savings on travel!
I think I must be REALLY homesick.

I've started questioning this whole thing. If it wasn't for the musicals scene and my obsession with stalking Florent Mothe after concerts I would be giving serious though to making a big change. I would be seriously thinking about applying to a grad school in England or something. I would be thinking about following a career path that led into publishing, like copyediting or proofreading or something.

It's been a full year since I was in the States, and in that time I've been in a situation where I lost a lot of confidence in myself, became convinced that I was socially disabled, and was unable to make friends that fill the hole left by the dorm girls. I was supposed to be rooming with Kelley in New York right now, living in a shitty apartment and working a part-time job while I reflected on what I really wanted out of life.

I'm so skeeved out by the lack of separation between church and state and the weird obsession with having the perfect body that I see in American culture that I don't know if I can go back. But I also don't know if I could really make close, bff type friends out of French people who had such different childhoods than mine. I don't know if my French will ever be good enough to get into school.

I guess I'm just really lonely and I feel really inadequate. Maybe I can get my foot in the door working in translation for a publishing house here in France (after two years of a master's program), and if I'm still unsure whether I'm happy I could try applying to one of the millions of companies in New York. Or I could apply to grad schools in New York for next year, and if I don't get into the French ones I have a backup plan that won't require me to au pair for ANOTHER year.

I'm not sure I remember what it is I would miss about France if I went back to the States, besides the obvious political climate stuff and Flo. I think it's just coming down to a cultural thing between me and other French people, and frustration with trying to communicate in a foreign language. Why am I doing this?

This is a burned-out post.

I don't want to be an au pair again.
I am going to get a little apartment in Paris someday.

I don't want it to be big: I have no use for more than two rooms. I want a bed with a firm mattress that doesn't give me back pain, a bathroom, and a little kitchen. Maybe a table and chair for sewing or writing. I don't need anything else.

I will have heavy curtains to block out all sunlight so I can sleep as late as I want on days I don't go to the job I will have. I will have a sewing machine, and maybe even one of those dress forms in my size. I will have a venus flytrap and a hot pink cactus on my windowsill. Maybe a jug plant. I will have my own wifi with a funny name and password and it will work really well. One day I even want a desktop computer with a ton of memory space for my Sims 2 AND 3 games, instead of having them on my laptop which gets hot and runs out of space quickly. The walls will be covered with my MOR posters.

I will have a normal job, maybe in a publishing company. I will have manuscripts to send to various publishing houses in the States. I will have a few really close friends.

Fuck everybody who keeps trying to shit on this dream.
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.
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.
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: (Eels)
The first time I bought birth control in France I just brought in a package of the stuff that was prescribed to me in the US, and they read the dosage and found a French equivalent. I paid around €12 for one month's supply. They asked for my name and address.

I went to the same pharmacie a month later, and this time they gave me THREE months for the same price, €12. I thought there may have been a mistake, but I didn't complain.

This morning I went back to get more, and this time? I got three months for €5.50.

THREE MONTHS OF BIRTH CONTROL FOR FIVE EUROS AND FIFTY CENTIMES

I have no idea what the hell is going on here, but it's amazing. And this is WITHOUT HEALTH INSURANCE INVOLVEMENT.
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...
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.
Well, to be honest I've actually gotten attached to the idea of going back to school because that gives me two more years here where I *definitely* know I can get a visa, I'm working toward a goal that will help me stay here, aaand yeah. The problem remains my lack of income and my insecure job desires.

But if I decide to go back to school after TAPIF, then I can apply for citizenship afterward, which will basically open up every closed door. I will also have training in translation (so maybe people like Dove Attia will take me seriously) and I'll have practice teaching (a pretty easy job to get here as a foreigner) aaand voilà. The other problem remaining is that I hate schooling but oh well, this time I'll know it was my own choice. I know au pairing was my own choice so when there's an issue I know I just have to suck it up and deal with it. I go through a lot just to stay here, but I know that no matter how miserable I think I am, I'm still happier than I was both times I tried to go back to the US after having lived in Paris.

If it hadn't been for MOR, I don't think I would have gotten quite this obsessed with staying here. A lot of things wouldn't have happened if it wasn't for MOR.

Also, I had SO MUCH MORE TIME when I was a student! I miss that quite desperately.

Here's another thing I like about the student idea: if I knew I would have three years here, I could go ahead and get myself a little apartment and apply for CAF, the government thing that helps poor people pay rent. I went by two local real estate places today and checked all the postings in the window. I nice one-bedroom apartment here in this suburb is usually in the €500/mo range, meaning kitchen, bathroom, shower, room, and sometimes even "entryway" or whatever. With CAF (according to the website) I would get something like €200 of that knocked off. The problem is, you can't apply to CAF without a carte de séjour (a sticker in your visa that sometimes takes AGES to acquire grrr) and when you do it still takes a while to kick in. Once it finally does they'll send you all the money you missed out on while you were waiting, but you still have to pay the rent somehow during that time. If I stay in the same little place for three years (TAPIF and two years of schooling) CAF will be a LOT more convenient for me.

If I get a roommate and a two-bedroom place, my half of the rent will be something like €400 and that's for a place with two rooms, a dining type area, a kitchen, bathroom shower, et cetera. Then CAF would only give me something like €100, meaning either way I pay the same, so actually it may be wiser to go ahead and plan to live alone seeing how I'm not sure this roommate will come through and blah blah. I texted her today like hey wanna go shopping and chat about our futures and she never answered. It happens. She's not super reliable. But hey, I'll get it figured out.

Also, you can spend two years here getting a masters for the same price you can spend one semester at UNC doing nothing.

Also as soon as my download LEGAL PURCHASE lol yeah right of Beauty and the Beast ends I'm going to make me an icon about wanting so much more than than this provincial town for future posts like this.
So here's the dilemma, I guess.

Word on the street is that there's some legislation in progress here in France that will make it all but impossible for a foreigner to find work here without a master's degree... unless she's married to a Frenchman.

There are two things I've always sworn I would never do: get married and go back to school.

Unfortunately, it now seems like I have no choice but to make one of those happen. Obviously school is the better option in the long run because it's entirely in my control and it could actually help benefit my future AND after two years of higher education in France you're allowed to apply for citizenship.

But the thing is, I've never even considered getting a masters. Never. So I am wildly unprepared to start thinking about this, especially since the websites I'm browsing aren't in English.

Will it be a big deal that I failed that computer class at UNC? I retook it later and made a C but it didn't make the fail go away. I'm not a great student... mostly C's and B's and underachieving. I feel like France has higher standards than me.

And what do I specialize in? Someone mentioned translation and I thought that was exciting so I started looking into it a bit. There's a translations master at Paris III, which is part of the "Nouvelle Sorbonne" or whatever. That's attractive cause you get to say "Sorbonne" and watch French people look impressed. But again... my grades. There's another one in Paris called ISIT, but I'm having trouble comprehending ANY of this.

How will I afford life whilst in school? More loans I guess. Luckily school here is pretty damn cheap, so that won't hurt too badly. I think getting my masters would cost the same as a round trip ticket to visit my family in the US. There's still housing and food to worry about, though.

And if I decide to get a masters in translation, how will that work with the fact that I'm a native English speaker going to a French university? Who do I go to with these questions?

I think the plan is to do TAPIF next year, then (if I must) two years of grad school (if possible?). At some point I can even get certified for TEFL online and then I'd be available to translate or teach...

But I don't know anything about getting a masters! I always ignored information on the subject because it just seemed so far from the realm of possible options for my future...

beurrrk

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?
The last few days have been really tough.

I kind of wounded my back somehow about a week ago--my lower back, just at the base of my spine.  And ever since I've had varying degrees of shoulder and neck pain/stiffness.  This weekend I couldn't turn my head at all.  It's torture.  My host family is sympathetic and has put me on Doliprane, a French painkiller, but it only works like 70% and it also makes me really nauseous or... something I can't describe.

The worst thing is, every time I'm left alone with my thoughts they get really dark.  I think I am finally starting to look around me and see that my groupie days are over, my obsession with Patrice is over, and I don't know what to do anymore.  I don't know what I want.  I am looking forward to three things: Christmas at German Lara's house (next weekend), seeing Adam & Eve (in a little over a month), and 1789 (in less than a year).  After that... nothing.  It's like my life is a ten minute youtube video and it's only managed to buffer the first minute.  I don't know what to look forward to after that.  I don't have any career aspirations or anything.  Whenever I see how happy my host family is surrounded by family and life-long friends I ask what the hell I think I'm doing out here alone in a foreign country prowling around dating sites for company and texting people who don't feel the need to answer.  I love Europe and I love France and I love Paris, but I'm just getting so scared and so overwhelmed.  I don't miss the United States at all, but wouldn't it be easier?

I can't give up and go back, though, because here I at least have a plan for another year.  I submitted my TAPIF application and will find out what they say at the beginning of April.  Everyone who knows about the program assures me that I'll get Paris (or a suburb) since I have so much experience living here and speaking French and blah blah.  Plus I've found a program that hooks students up with a lonely old person with a huge house in Paris: you live in a spare room and pay something like €21 a month and all the old person asks is that you eat dinner with them and tell them about your day.  I LOVE old people.  That would be ideal for me as long as they found me a suitable geezer and as long as my person didn't DIE before our year was up.  I would even make an awesome PROFIT from TAPIF if I could do that!

If I went home... I have no idea.  I wouldn't be growing or moving forward.  I wouldn't know where to start looking for a job or future.  Literally, I wouldn't know WHERE to look.  My hometown?  My college town?  New York City?  Some random city I find by throwing a dart at a map?  No, at least here I have a path for next year.  At least here I CAN do stuff if I want.  At least here I have a place in society, even if that place has become slightly obsolete without MOR.

Anyway.  Scared, depressed, sore, unsure.  And sore.  REALLY sore.  I'm at a point in my life where for the first time mortality is really starting to scare me.

Also, I have found that I can no longer make ANY life decisions without running it by other people first.  Even my Sims game I screencap new developments so I can tell everyone (no one cares) about it.  I haven't started applying for the living-with-an-old-person thing because I haven't had enough friends encourage me to do so yet.  In any case I should probably wait till April, because if I don't get TAPIF then I'm going to have to stay with this host family for another year.

My sore back kept me indoors last Monday, and I skipped stagedooring La Chanson de l'Année.  I went for a few hours during the afternoon and saw Christophe Maé, Shy'm, Seal, and Bénabar going in to rehearsals.  If I had come back and waited to catch people as they left I could have seen the troupes of Adam & Eve and 1789.  I could have gotten flotos.  But I stayed here and laid across my bed and thought about how scared I was until I cried.
Welp, I haven't made an unlocked post in a while so I figured I should. I have a couple friends who aren't lj users who say they follow my journal anyway soooo this is for them.

Things are looking up! I think I'm finally done with that toxic relationship with the Frenchman who barely even remembered to make me a second choice, much less validate me or appreciate what I was offering him AT ALL. I don't want to bear him ill will or anything, especially since I'm sure our paths will cross again (he still thinks he's allowed to invite me over any time he gets bored, but I don't need his attention anymore so he's got a surprise coming). I'm sure he's still the same sweet guy I fell for almost a year ago, but he hasn't been acting like it since I got back to Paris. I've given him way too many chances and forgiven him way too many times. So, goodbye to him, I guess. No more Patrin. I'm disappointed, but I'm not broken or angry or regretful, and that's what matters.

Also, German Lara said I could go to her house for Christmas! Weinachstein, I mean. I'm super relieved, because when I checked with my host family what days I would be free to leave it turned out that THEY WERE EXPECTING ME TO WORK RIGHT THROUGH CHRISTMAS. What? Most of the other au pairs are going home! I thought I would at least have the same amount of free time as the au pairs who were leaving the country for Christmas, but nope! I have about five days. I love being around German Lara. She's so supportive and wise and lovely.

Speaking of the host family, out of nowhere the other day they asked if I wanted to stay another year with them! So... I guess they like me now? Well, I've taught their three year old to count to seven in English and he comprehends almost everything I say. All three kids can sing Ça ira mon amour now, or at least the refrains. I've gotten better at remembering all the household chores and! my room! has been clean! for almost a month! This is UNHEARD of! I didn't like them tearing me apart for drifting through life, but I needed to hear it.

The only piece of my TAPIF application that's missing is the second recommendation. I'm going to ask my host family, but I keep chickening out. I guess they like me now, since they asked me to stay on. I mean obviously I'm not going to stay unless I have absolutely no other choice. I hate living in a massive room with a massive bed and my own entrance and bathroom but not being allowed to let friends stay over. Making a friend stay in a hostel when she comes to visit you is INSANE and unfair. Plus even on my days off the kids feel free to come wandering into my room to bother me. And if I try to stay in here to work the whole family pries and asks what I was doing and why I didn't leave my room. I don't like feeling judged, so... yeah. I like them, but I need to remove myself from this situation when the contract is up.

Also, my fannish love for my rebound man Roddy J is growing and growing. You WILL love me, Roddy J. If you don't believe me, ask the entire Troupe of MOR. In fact, I am now going to make him and 1789 a special silly tag.

I went to see Dracula this weekend and stagedoored with German Lara a couple of times. The most nice were Anais, Golan, Gregory, and Marble-Eyes McGee (just kidding his name is Julien). The others were all either intimidated by us not speaking French to them or shy or rushed. It's hard to tell with des artistes. We also saw Cabaret (though we were so unimpressed that we left during intermission) and met Claire, Delphine, and Emmanuel "Babyface" Moire. This is why I love living in Paris.

Also, I am redying my hair obnoxiously red again today. I don't look forward to the family making comments about it, but oh well. That's the color it was when I got here, and now it's so faded and the roots almost look gray comparatively! I wanna pretend to be a bombshell again.

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