so next time I WON’T be buying bags…..Létizia told me today (before I made a return visit to the grocery store) that you BRING your bags! How eco-friendly 🙂
So today I went to the grocery store. Might seem like a normal activity but not when you have no directions and are still learning the language of a new place. So I got the list of things and headed in the direction of town. Létizia told me it was in the same place as the doctor’s office where I went the other day. Problem is I was with the kids then and relied on them for the directions. The biggest problem I wanted to avoid was going too far and entering the A-10 (the highway where you must pay a toll). As I listened to Lady Gaga (a great discovery of the day: There is a Lady Gaga CD in the car! niiiice) I entered the first round about of three. So far so good. Then the second and as I approached the third I had no idea where to go! First try: warehouse that led to the Gâre. Good to know where that is I guess, but a train wouldn’t help my present desires of reaching the grocery store. Turn around. Re-enter the circle and take the next exit out. Looks promising, but I see ahead the toll booth, damn, hope this building to the right is where I am supposed to be…..SUCCESS! I recognize the doctor and the pet store (Célénie had to get une bouteille for the bunny after our doctor visit this weekend).
I was happy to have made it without a HUGE catastrophe. I grab a basket, whip out the list and–what is that number? Next to the listed “Jus d’orange” was a number that could have been a 6 or a 4. What you all should know is that the French don’t write their numbers like we do. There are more curly-q’s, and other random lines connecting things. For example with the 1, they extend the line on the left all the way down to the bottom, like a caret symbol. Anyways, for the sake of my arm not falling off I only grabbed 4 (I can always return for more later).
After asking for help with the fruit stamp thingy and making my way to the counter I encountered the next road block: they don’t exactly give you a bag for your things. With my poor French I couldn’t understand if I could take my basket and put the things inside or if I was going to have to carry the things (impossible) to my car. Finally it was confirmed that I would pay 3cents for a bag. Sweet. I smush my things into the weak plastic and seeing my bag about to rip in half the nice lady behind me told the cashier to double bag the thing! Merci BEAUCOUP 🙂
I left that store with a bursting bag, two Cokes pressed against my chest and two bread bags dangling from my hand. It’s a miracle I even made it to the car without everything falling. But I did and I returned home–this trip was less of an adventure although I did take one wrong exit on a circle/roundabout which was quickly reprised.
And just when I thought I was home free, I opened the trunk. Down came rolling the Coke. Already shaken up from the twisty roads I traveled on, it hit the rocky ground and exploded all over me! Merde!
Next time I am paying a whole Euro for multiple bags that the cashier can double/triple bag!
Recently I have been feeling a little anxious to make friends. I am totally that way though, a bit impatient and like when everything is in order–which is not the case when you have just moved to a new foreign country! Things take time, and I am the first to admit I am bad at waiting.
So on account of having met no friends in the 4 days I have been there (see the impatience yet?) I ventured down to the winery to chat with some people I have met: Nicole and Marie are sisters and I am pretty sure they are just about 80 years old. They are so sweet and cook great food for us during The Harvest, but not really the people who are going to show me around town and party with me if you know what I mean. On top of that, they speak absolutely NO english.
So I said Bonjour, returned some baskets, and then awkwardly stood before them. I think my vision was to say something charming in French and for them to ask to show me how to make some amazing French meal…je rêve!
After a few minutes of broken sentences and laughter (due to the incomprehensible things we said to one another), I said “à toute à l’heure” and was back up to the house to hang out with the 10 and 13-year-old who I know will be my friends for a long time after this journey.
As you can tell, Chevannes is in the middle of nowhere. I enjoy the countryside and all it has to offer, but I dont think I could live in it forever! Ironically I have found that listening to country music has been the most comforting thing for me. It’s a little bit of America and it fills that void for now. I guess Taylor Swift and her friends do the trick because the American songs that are on the radio here are all pop or oldies. Oh and for anyone who told me the French would be listening to our songs months after they came out in the States, YOU ARE WRONG. The other day on my almost 50 minute drive to school (blah) I listened to Rihanna’s new hit 3 times! I think it’s safe to say that they are “in the know” people!
Many things in France replicate that of America. Brother/sister arguments, over committing to children’s activities, making wrong turns, cursing, being sarcastic…..I am not saying I didn’t expect this, just some things I have noticed as I get to know my new family.
But tonight in the car home from Louis-Auguste’s fencing class (not so American) I was asked if I knew “mac-doughnald.” My mind was thinking too hard and I couldn’t quite put together what was said or why I would know this French person/place/thing? Then like a brick it hit me…”OH, McDonald’s?” Idiot, I thought to myself. I have to stop thinking they are so different from us that a stop at a fast food restaurant wouldn’t be normal. And although fast food is not my favorite, I felt much better eating it in this country! The pronunciation, which I couldn’t decifer at first, is not harsh and, well, American. I taught them how to pronounce it like Americans, and cringed at the difference. Believe me, next time you have to go stop at McDonald’s, say it with a French accent and you will almost taste the elegance of the sound in the Big Mac…..almost.
What a busy first day in France!
I left Les Etats-Unis at 6pm CST (after traveling all afternoon from Philly to Chi-Town) and didn’t get much sleep on the close to 8 hour flight. I was so emotionally numb on the ride; not all the way sad, or nervous, or happy. I guess I was feeling apprehensive while also knowing that I wanted to be there (conflicting feelings creating unidentified emotions? Sounds like an answer to me).
But I arrived safely and after a little wait was on my way to Chevannes (a town I found out has 100 inhabitants) with David (dad) and his friend Roman (roll that “R”). As I knew would happen, it was not easy for me to speak French. I would sit there in the back seat and create sentences in my head but would get too nervous to utter them. This used to be an issue in French class I think. But don’t fret, tonight at dinner I buckled down and used some broken French. I can assure you that this made the children more comfortable. I am learning French while they are learning English…we’re on an even level.
On a side note for those a little lost, I am Au Pair for Célénie, 10, and Louis Auguste, 13. Their mom is pregnant with twins and therefore my job is to take the kids to and from school and various activities. I also will attend French class myself (which I am now so happy about because I hate not understanding dinner table talk).
So back to the day…
They didn’t waste time with anything because believe it or not I already have been taught the ins and outs (or enough to get me from A to B) of driving in France. I got behind the Mercedes hatchback and David spoke to me in broken French as I clutched the wheel at 10&2! I am alive, but nervous to take myself on all these twisted roads of the country and through the city of Dijon to my school and the kids’ school. Thank God for navigation system in the car 🙂
Well enough for today. Need to get some sleep to be ready for another action packed day of errands in my new home, FRANCE!!
Au Revoir et Bonne Nuit.
So just last week I finally made my appointment with the Embassy! For all aspiring Au Pair’s out there, there are a lot of hoops to go through before making the last step and getting your VISA! If you go through an agency, I am sure they take care of all this. I however did not. I went through the family directly and we were both new to this process, making my head want to spin-off at times. The family should register you for a school (although it is not always the case they will pay for the schooling). They also need to go to the ministrie du travail and get working papers signed. These documents must be signed by you and them and must be ORIGINAL (sent through postal mail). Make sure you have copy of these when going to Embassy, which brings me to the next part. Once you have those papers set up an Embassy appointment. I think early in day is less crowded ( I only waited an hour and when I left it was starting to fill up). Make sure you have the original school docs, the travail doc, the 2 applications found on the Embassy website, and two extra passport photos. Also bring copy of your license to prove your residency (they take the actual license when you walk through the gates before getting to the office). You’re applying for the D VISA and so bring the right amount of money too.
I was full of questions before getting to Embassy (so feel free to email me if you have any). I also asked a lot when I was getting to the place!! I was lucky to have a sister put me up for the night before my appointment in DC. So that morning after dreaming I had missed the appointment (anxiety anyone?) I got up and started my adventure of public transportation. I got on a metro in Arlington which took me to Rosslyn. From here I asked a few people to show me to the D Bus which the Embassy website said took me right there. yeah….this didnt exist. So I was advised to get on the Georgetown University shuttle (FREE!!!). I asked the girl in front of me if the shuttle took people to the Hospital (I knew that the Embassy was across from there). Lucky for me, she was a nursing student and I basically followed her pink shirt off the bus and in the correct direction. Then I was lost. Just couldn’t find that damn French building. So I asked an old man walking his puppy (seemed he was cultured and would know where an Embassy might be). HE DID, and I finally found the building. Of course getting in was a process as well. Sidewalk ended so I had to cross the street. Then I proceeded to walk through the gates that let cars in…was this normal? I have no idea but the French lady was happy to let me walk through the large gates and into the Embassy, that’s all that mattered.
So I was in! Later that day I mastered the metro system and met friends for lunch and dinner (always need to make the most of my road trips). Two days later (much faster than I was told) my VISA arrived in my pre-addressed FedEx package. Now its Monday, a week later, and I am leaving for France, with two suitcases, one backpack, and one Ver Bradley duffel bag (I have NO idea what I should bring).