Monday, April 5, 2010


"Paques" is French for Easter. In France, almost everyone gets Monday off of work, so we get a nice 3-day-weekend. I spent mine with Olivier. We didn't do a lot, but it was nice to relax. On Monday we had a friend, Philippe, over and I cooked. To my surprise, the food tasted pretty good. I made pasta with chicken in a garlic, buttery, creamy sauce with mushrooms. Oh and we did eat bread and wine (unintentionally a religious meal). I did miss spending the day with my family and searching for my Easter dad still likes to watch us search like kids as soon as we wake up (David still acts like a 5-year-old in search of his basket). And I will say that Easter candy in the US is sooooo good. I love it..Starburst jelly beans, Cadbury mini eggs, Reese eggs, ....I could go on all day. I hope you all had a great Easter :)

Saturday, April 3, 2010

"Almost French"

I have found a book that is absolutely perfect in describing how I feel as an outsider living in Paris. It is called "Almost French" and it is written by Sarah Turnbull, an Australian woman who fell in love with a Frenchman and ended up staying in Paris. She brings up so many different things that I have experienced. I am not yet finished with the book, but I am loving it and recommend it. I am just going to include a few quotes that have really impacted me.

"After four months of traveling, I know only one thing with absolute certainty: if I don't go to France...I might regret it forever. I'll always be wondering about the love of my life that could have been, the entirely different future that might have been if only I'd taken the risk. Sure, there's no guarantee that it will work, but then nothing ventured, nothing gained. All I know is a chance encounter has thrown open an unexpected door. Instinct tells me to step through it."

This quote hit me like a ton of bricks. I don't know what my future holds, but I know that if I come home as planned and don't try to be with Olivier, I will always wonder what might have been. The path I had always envisioned for myself has shifted drastically from a life in the US to one in France. The next quote is also very meaningful. I feel like I am an "in-betweener." I feel so American in France, but when I am home in the United States, I feel like a part of me is missing. I see France in everything...I think of it every day. While in Greece, the author encountered a man who was also from Australia, but had spent a lot of his life in Greece.

"'It's a bittersweet thing, knowing two cultures...It's a curse to love two countries.' ...I had no idea then how radically my life was about to change and how well I would come to understand what the Greek had said."

The last quote has to deal with some of the frustration that comes from living in a world where my first language is not spoken on a normal basis. After a dinner party, Sarah was perceived as being shy and quiet for not talking a lot. I feel just like her because I simply cannot always follow conversations and I feel like when I do try to add something, I end up sounding stupid. This is not so bad right now, but before, it could really be frustrating.

"It does matter to me that I'm now perceived as quiet, nice and boring. And the reason it bothers me is because it's true. Looking back, I'd said very little all night. When I did speak, it was to issue childlike statements or ask simple questions which made me cringe at my own dumbness."

In general, this book has really helped me realize the differences in French life and culture, and helped me to better understand that what I am going through is similar for other expats.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

With Spring Comes Change

Spring is here and I am loving it! The weather has been pretty warm (light jacket weather) and it has been really sunny...except when it randomly decides to rain. It feels so nice to be able to walk around Paris and not be shielding from the elements the entire time. While I am thrilled that it is spring and I am having a wonderful time in most aspects of my life, I have decided to make a big change. After many months of being an au pair, I have decided to quit. I have had enough and I am just ready to be done with it all. And here is why...

In general, I feel taken advantage of. What I was told and promised before I arrived is just not the reality. The hours in my contract have never been respected and the idea of being paid for several extra hours left my mind right after I first arrived. I never really know when I will be finished at night, which can be very annoying, especially when I have plans with friends. For example, last week I was supposed to meet with friends around 8:30 pm. Well, since I wasn't relieved of childcare responsibilities until 10 pm, that did not happen. Monday night I figured I might be done around 8:30, when in fact, I was not done until 11. It just gets old. Oh, and hardly ever is there a call or text to inform me that I will be done very late. It is all a guessing game. I am never paid extra for working the hours outside of my contract. Apparently these make up for the "2 babysitting nights" that were never mentioned before I arrived (they are definitely not mentioned in my contract). I had assumed that I would be paid for extra full days (since I had been told I would be). Oh and I am hardly ever paid on time.

Another thing is that it is hard with the kids. They act out all of the time because they want their mother. They blame me for their mother not being there. I understand that they do not understand and I try to comfort them. I do not like being a part of it. I feel bad for them, but I am ready to be away from it.

I did not realize before I arrived that I would have the kids all day long, five days a week during the entire month of July (about 50/55 hours). This is well over the 30 hour a week rule, but once I found out about it, I was told that I would be compensated. Right after announcing that I would be leaving, I learned that in fact I probably would not have been paid anything extra. Thank goodness I am deciding to leave because I would much rather spend most of the month of July in beautiful northern Michigan than spending endless stressful hours watching three kids that are constantly naughty and disrespectful.

In the beginning I had asked about taking a Friday off here and there for traveling. After all, part of living in France is being able to take little vacations around Europe. I was told that this would not be a problem, just as long as I told them a few weeks in advance. Well, for the first time I asked for a Friday off. I asked for it nearly two months in advance. It was refused on the grounds that the parents had to work. Well in my opinion, they have plenty of time to work something else out. I think the mother figured out that I was mad about that and eventually gave me the day off. This happened the day I told her I was leaving, so it was too late for her. Oh well, I wouldn't have changed my decision anyway.

There are lots of other little things that I do not like about my job, like all of the cleaning, but I can put up with that stuff. If I had the hours in my contract and did only "light housework" for the cleaning (like I was told), I would stay the rest of my time here. However being continually taken advantage of has put a damper on my year abroad. I want to spend the rest of my time here enjoying myself without this burden. I have a student visa and plan on taking a class this summer to satisfy that. And if that doesn't work I can always just go to England for a few days and return to France as a tourist. I'll figure it out. I can do little babysitting jobs or tutor people in English and I will make more than I make now. I have a place to stay so I am not worried about that at all. I can always just hop on a plane and come back to the states if there are problems. Since I have told of my leaving, I feel like a huge weight has been lifted. Even though the situation in the home is now pretty uncomfortable, I can deal with it. The parents and I are not often home at the same times anyway. I am helping in the search for another au pair and I already have a few potential people that are already in Paris.