Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Awaiting Africa

In less than a week, five days to be exact, I will depart for Morocco. I will be going with Crystal and another American au pair named Sarah, and we will be staying for five days. 

I really do not know how this all came about. Basically, Crystal and I both have the same week off and we thought we needed to do something fun together. Looking through the airline prices helped us decide our destination. Africa. I've always wanted to go, so why not now? I know Morocco is in the northern tip of Africa and I'm not venturing into the tribal lands that lie further south, but hey, it's still Africa. We will be flying into Marrakech where we will stay for most of our trip. While there we plan on seeing snake-charmers, bartering for goods, eating lots of couscous, riding on camels, taking a city tour, and basically just checking out the history and culture. Then we plan on taking an overnight train to Tangier and checking out the Straight of Gibraltar before we fly back to Paris. 

We found a great hostel in Marrakech for only 13 euro a night. Lucky for us, Marrakech looks like it will be pretty cheap, especially compared to Paris. All of the hostels there were around this price, and this one looked like it would be the best for us. It is right in the city center, so we can basically just walk to get where we need to go. The hostel was even rated the number one hostel in Marrakech for 2008 and has great reviews. So, no worries. We plan on having a great trip. It will be nice to get out of Paris for a few days. I'll blog when I get back with pictures and stories. 

Monday, February 15, 2010

Valentine's Day

I hope you all had a nice Valentine's Day. I have never been one to care that much about the day to be honest, but I definitely enjoyed it this year (it helps having someone to share it with). I guess I had more of a Valentine's week-end than just a "day," since like usual, I got to share the whole week-end with my valentine. I went to Crystal's place on Friday to make cookies. She has a new special someone in her life too, and when I told her I was going to make cookies, she wanted in on the deal. We attempted and succeeded in our cookie-making. This is no big feat under normal circumstances, but when one has to use different ingredients, cut their own chocolate pieces, and use a professional French oven, things can get exciting. With the first taste of the delicious dough, I knew they were not a complete failure. There's something so delicious about an oatmeal chocolate chunk cookie. I boxed them all up and took them to Olivier Friday night, thus commencing a great week-end. 

We spent Friday night and Saturday night with the usual band of his friends (which have now become my friends too), eating in restaurants and having drinks at the familiar, cozy bar near his place. His friends are very sweet and funny. Then Sunday rolled around. I really did not expect anything, but he surprised me, like a perfect gentleman. Under the casual cover of "going to get some bread," he returned with the bread, a small chocolate, heart-shaped cake, and a bouquet of peach-colored roses (noting that red roses were so cliche..haha). 

Since it was a beautiful Sunday afternoon, we decided to go for a walk to soak up the sun. Sacre Coeur, a beautiful basilica and one of my favorite Parisian tourist attractions, is not far from his place, so we met up with some friends to walk there, snacking on Nutella crepes on the way. 

The day ended comfortably, perfectly actually. We watched a French movie, and for the first time, I really understood just about everything. I broke a little language barrier I think! It was hilarious in a 1980s Breakfast Club kind-of way. It was called "Les Sous Doues Passent le Bac," or something along the lines of "The Under Achievers Attempt to take the Bac" (Bac: the test at the end of high school). Then we watched a little Olympic action, with France and the US in a head-to-head cross-country ski race. To my dismay, after plenty of trash talk coming from me, France happened to win. It was pretty funny. It was a perfect end to a very nice day. 

Thursday, February 4, 2010

My Latest Care Package

Now, before I get into the very interesting detailed account of the contents of my latest care package, I must mention something to my readers about my blogging frequency. I am sorry to my readers for leaving many long, uninterrupted voids between posts. Ideally I would like to be blogging my life away, leaving you all a day-to-day update on an exciting life. Now, being honest with myself and you, I must admit that my life is not, in fact, filled with excitement, thus making day-to-day blogging something that would be very boring and not worth your time, or mine for that matter. Alas, the point of this little rambling is that I just want to inform you that I will try to blog often (hopefully inspiring ideas will really start coming to me), but in all reality, and as my history has shown, don't expect more than a few blogs out of me a month. I'm just not that good at staying up-to-date when it comes to blogging. 

Now that that is out of the way, I will now begin explaining to you all my pathetic list of the contents in my most recent care package. Keep in mind that I have been very excited for its arrival, and I know you are all going to think I am crazy. 

1. My Pumas. I have been wanting these shoes for months and do not know why I ever left them home in the first place. In a city where I do a lot of walking, these things are a necessity that I have really been missing. 

2. Peanut Butter M&M's. Yes, this little entity continually makes itself present in my blogs. Can you tell that I love them? It is actually a good thing that I cannot get these in France. I wouldn't be able to stay away. 

3. Dental Floss. I brought two things of floss with me, knowing that it is a little harder to find over here. I am honestly one of the people that do not feel guilty at the dentist's office when I am asked if I have been flossing regularly. I am a flosser and I am choosy when it comes to my floss. I have found floss here (it's at the pharmacy and sometimes Monoprix, as well as other places I have not thought to look, I'm sure), but I was quickly disappointed at the stuff the person at the pharmacy gave me. It does not come close to the Glide floss I love. However, I think I spotted it at a different Monoprix the other day, so I will be going back to check. 

4. Jif Extra Crunchy Peanut Butter. Need I say more? Yum (I am currently eating it on an English Muffin)! My mom sent me two huge things of it! Thanks Momma!

5. Fiber. I prefer to not explain this. You all can figure it out. 

6. Valentine's Day Card. This was the surprise. I didn't know this was coming and it made me very happy. My mom was really thinking ahead when she sent this. Thank goodness the stores put V-Day stuff out as soon as Christmas is over (and sometimes before). 

I know this all seems so basic to you, but this stuff helps me feel just a little better. I may love France and almost everything about it, but I was raised in the US and am used to my favorites. Thanks Mom! My peanut butter stock should last me until my parents come to France in April. If not, well, I'll just have to wander to the exotic foods section and buy a tiny, expensive tub of it. 

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.