Life Updates

Two days ago, I made rice.

Which I know really doesn’t sound like much, but after four months of limited kitchen access, boiling a pot of water and dumping in a container of whole-wheat grains felt unbelievably rewarding.

Spring semester ended almost three weeks ago—an end that brought with it a mix of feelings. The friends I had shared the last four months with were leaving. And I, staying.

I struggled with a wave of emotions—of worry that I’d feel alone this summer. Of worry that I wouldn’t like my internship, nor the time restrictions of the workday. And I worried that maybe I should have given it better thought before extending the four months abroad into the six months away.


I remember leaving the interview for my internship, three months ago. The company was in search of an intern to manage their UK site— someone who spoke English and could communicate in French. They had liked my skills in social media, thanks to last summer’s internship at a social media marketing firm, and had found my international background fitting.

They said they'd let me know by that Friday.

Which they did, that Friday evening.

In life, there’s a plan to everything you do—a greater reason behind every choice you make. I knew I had wanted to say in Paris this summer long before I left to study abroad. I believe there's a reason that it worked out-- a reason that everything fell into place. 

And so a week into work, a week into this new, summer life in Paris, and I’m grateful I chose to stay. I’m grateful for the months spent applying for jobs, for the weeks spent in search of new housing. I’m grateful for the past four months—for the basis they provided in allowing me this opportunity. I could never have worked and lived in a non- English speaking environment without four months of complete French immersion. And I would never have felt comfortable staying in Paris alone without the familiarity of the city and my comfort in my surroundings.

It always works out as it should. Life does, in its own weird way.
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It took an embarrassing amount of time to find the print screen key on the French keyboard at work.


Reasons:
- The French don’t believe in the simplicity of a Print Screen button.
- Command + Shift + 4 is for a Mac. The office uses PCs. I’m not even going to comment.
- The letters are ordered differently on a French keyboard. For example, the A and the Q switch places and the parentheses shift a few buttons to the right. The German intern helped alter my computer settings to switch the keyboard to an American functioning. It works fine, as long as I keep my focus on the screen and not the keyboard, while typing. 


I work just down the street from where I used to take my French Grammar class-- about a ten- minute walk away from where I used to live.The Montparnasse Cemetery faces the road opposite the office—it's the same cemetery I used to cross through each morning on my way to Grammar. It had taken me a week to muster the courage to walk through; I’ve never liked cemeteries, never liked the all to real reminder of death a cemetery connotes. But there’s something to cemeteries in Paris—of the lushness of the greens, of the pedestrians strolling around, of the peace within the interior of the grounds.

I used to live on the other side of the cemetery; And so, for me, the cemetery is my own physical passage of growth—of the four months that have taken me to these two. Of the different entrance I’m tackling Paris with, yet of the same base I'm using to build this new angle— this new experience.
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I work for TV- Replay, an online, TV catch- up guide for France, the UK and Germany. My role requires I manage the UK site, having spent my first week updating the site’s editorial content: revamping images and links, translating basic text from French to English, regrouping shows and researching program ratings. It’s been a while since someone’s worked on the site, leaving me quite a bit to get through.

I work with seven other men—really, not too bad of a situation. Two of the seven also intern—one works on the German site, the other French.

We share the office with two architectural firms—they take the central floor of the small space, leaving TV- Replay with the room just off from the office entrance.

Six of us sit in the main area, our desks forming a square formation and a fake palm tree serving as the central island. There’s a small window in the middle of the ceiling and a blown up magazine cover of Scarlett Johansson that hangs on the end of the wall I faceThe company’s two owners work in the adjoining room directly behind where I sit. 

It’s cozy for an office and a good size and layout for an effective working environment. The men have been nothing less than warm and welcoming, truly providing a smooth transition to my first week.

I work in English, yet converse mainly in French. Only the man I work next to me speaks fluent English. He's been the one that trained me and it's peace of mind to know that, with him, I can revert to English when I need to explain or clarify something more specific. 

It’s fascinating working and living in a completely French-speaking environment. It's strange that I can go days without a full English conversation. It leaves me exhausted, come the end of the day. And I use every last piece of energy to continue the French once back in my new homestay.

Which for the record, is incredible. It’s been almost a week and already, it’s made up for the last fourth months of living with former Madame.

I moved in last Sunday, having returned from just under two weeks of stay with family and friends in London and Israel. New Madame hadn’t yet returned from her weekend trip to la campagne (French for countryside—Parisians all seem to have a home in the countryside that they visit during the summer weekends).


The new apartment is in the 6th arrondissement (although a street over from the 7th)— a posh neighborhood about a 10-minute walk form St. Michel (the Notre Dame area) and 25 minutes from the Louvre. The area is an expensive one, with designer stores lining each side of the road. The buildings are a worn, beige coloring, all bearing the traditional, ornate iron rod balconies. It screams old, traditional Paris, and I love it. 

There’s a large window, on the right wall of my room, that looks out on the shops and apartments in front. I love my iron balcony and the white shutters folded onto the sides. I open the window in the morning to allow the fresh air in and again in the evening, once home, to hear the sounds of life below.
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Madame’s two grown sons, in addition to the other homestay boy, greeted me, upon my arrival. Her older son, a 31- year- old man with  a form of a psychological disability that he often refers to in conversation, kept me company for the three hours that I unpacked. He spends his afternoons in the apartment and his mother, once home, helps care for him. His presence adds life to the apartment, his constant chatter creating a nice buzz that I can always hear from my room. He comes into my room often to talk, always asking mid- conversation if I'd like to be left alone now. I've learned that it's ok to say yes.

As for new Madame—she’s a true delight. 58, as she proudly announced at dinner a few nights ago, Madame bought the apartment with her husband after their marriage. Following their divorce, she kept the space, using the spare room for au pairs and, for the past ten years, students. She’s the daughter of the famous, French poet, Patrice de la Tour Pin—a man who, in addition to the publication of his own poems, translated hymns and prayers for the Vatican. There’s a street and square named after him in the 16th arrondissement and his countryside home has been made into a landmark that groups pay visit to throughout the year. 

She’s full of life, new Madame—the whisps of her short, thin blonde hair falling in all different directions, while the creases on her face emphasize the animation of her expressions. Like her son, she imbues a genuine friendliness and keen interest in the students she houses.

The four of us—Madame, her son and Arien, the other homestay boy—eat together, sitting around the rectangular, wooden table in the small kitchen. We sit for dinner for about an hour and a half—such a difference to the 15 minutes I took to eat my dinner alone in my former homestay. Madame loves to cuisine, stirring up homemade soup and quiches, lentil salad and pasta dishes. I’ve explained my kosher restrictions as vegetarian; my friend who lived here last semester was vegetarian too. It's enough reason for Madame to validate her belief that Americans are the pickiest of eaters. 


I love it here, this sense of home, of a family-esque environment. I feel comfortable to leave my room, to use the kitchen, to chat. Here, there’s no need to maintain that sense of distance from Madame—she welcomes company and doesn’t separate her side of the home from the room I rent.  
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The seven hours of the workday go by at a natural pace—although my focus tends to wear thin the last hour. But I have nowhere else to go and nothing really else to do, so I welcome the structure the workday provides. I use my hour lunch break to stretch my legs and wander around the quartier (neighborhood) and in the afternoons, I'll choose to walk home-- dallying into the local bookstores and clothing shops, art galleries and food stores


Four months ago, I recall noticing the vibrancy the city takes on come the end of the workday—of the bustle of customers lining the cafes, of the pedestrians ambling along the roads. The sun goes down around 10 during the summer, and at 5.30—well the night just begins.

For the next seven weeks, I’m a part of this life. It's going to fly by, I know. And so my goal is to make the most of my every moment, of my every experience. As for now,  I've got a weekend in Paris to enjoy before the routine of the work week starts fresh come Monday morning. 



Top: View from outside of my window
Bottom: my room/ the iron balcony outside the window 




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