Wednesday, February 3, 2010

A Slight Dilemma

My first and only January in Paris has come and gone faster than I could have imagined. I'm already into February and I can hardly believe it. In just a few short weeks I will have hit six months of being out of the USA. This January, in my opinion, was quite bizarre, and I'm from Michigan where weather is always bizarre. It was bitterly cold here in December and early January, and then it warmed up...not a lot, but enough to stop wearing warm boots and mittens. I still usually wear a scarf, but unless it happens to be an especially cold day, I'm just too warm with all of my Michigan winter gear. Today it was raining when I got up. Now it's sunny. This is very typical. I can count on one hand the number of times I've seen it snowing in Paris. 

I have a lot of uncertainties right now, one of which being my status as a student. Officially, I am supposed to be taking a French course in order to be an au pair (student visa). Well, I was taking a French course, but the last trimester ended in December. I decided to switch classes because I was not getting enough out of the other for the amount of money I paid. It met twice a week for two hours each session, I had hardly any homework, no tests, and it cost me 365 euro a trimester plus a registration fee of around 40 euro. That's a lot of money when you are not getting much in return and you come from the US and are dealing with the dollar and a crappy exchange rate. I found another course through the city of Paris. It costs 145 euro. Not so bad. Yes, there are downfalls such as bigger class sizes, but that was not enough to make me stick where I was before. After all, I can deal with big classes. I went to Michigan State and took classes in auditoriums full of people. Crystal and I showed up the first day of registration to make sure we had filled everything in correctly, trying to prevent any possible problems. Everything looked fine and the woman helping us assured us that there should be no problems since we were there on the first day. We walked next door to the post office (they required us to mail the forms), mailed our stuff and waited. The school received our forms the next day (it was postmarked as evidence), and a few weeks later, we each heard back. There arose one BIG problem. Crystal got in. I did not, the reason being that the class was full. Tough luck. So now I don't know what to do. I can't go back to my old started a month ago and I can not possibly pay for it, and all the other classes I have looked up interfere with my schedule as an au pair. 

So, here is my plan. Keep in mind that I have done all official visits and filed all official paperwork for my visa ages ago, I only make 250 euro a month, and the previous school was only four hours a week when it was supposed to be ten (according to the French government). I have decided to take matters into my own hands because I'm stuck. I have decided to learn French on my own. I know enough of it to figure out the new stuff, and I have people to help explain concepts to me if I don't understand. After all, the last teacher did say that the best way to learn French was to have a French boyfriend. Along with this, I am going to do a language exchange a few times a week. This is just a meeting over coffee where two people help each other learn their language. So, I will meet with a native French person for help with French, and in return, I will help that person learn English. I have already received several messages of people interested in doing this with me. Actually today, somebody said their French professor wanted to do this and asked for my info. Is there a better way for me to learn French than from a native French professor, one-on-one? I think not. If worse comes to worse, and this does just not "fly" with the French government, then I will just come home. I don't want to, believe me, but that is the very worst thing that could happen here. And besides, there is no way the French government has the time to come check up on me or the thousands of other au pairs, especially after I have paid all of my fees to the government.

So maybe I'm not exactly playing by the rules now that I am not officially registered in a school. I have better things to do than get worked up over this issue that I can do nothing more about. Other than this, life is great. I'm a little homesick today, but this always comes and goes. Plus it is Black Wednesday (I'm home all day with the kids), which means that after today, the week-end is in sight :) I have to say that the best part of being an au pair is the week-end. 

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