Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The French Freshman

I spent a lot of my final week running around town getting my last minute trip supplies because I'm sure Parisians don't know what sticky notes or flexgrips pens are.  I found myself sharing the aisles of Office Depot with many kids getting ready for school, and I realized that I feel a lot of the same energy I did when preparing to go to college.

It was always fun shopping for supplies and getting pristine ruled notebooks, but there was also an anxiety when starting a new school.  Would I made friends, would the classes be really hard, what if I don't get good enough grades?

College was also an opportunity for a new start and to possibly reinvent yourself.  I met a guy on the first day of college that changed his name, but not to anything like Peace on Earth or a symbol, but rather, Sam.  Maybe Sam was always a guy in his mind that was very entertaining and the life of the party.  I don't plan on changing my name, though my French tutor preferred calling me by my first name of Kathryn since it sounded a bit more French, but you have to pronounce it like latrine with a K in front.

There was nervousness in going away to college the first year.  It meant leaving home, family, friends, and pretty easy living.  I feel pieces of that now in leaving my established life with its tight social network and the overall ability to simply know the system and how to work within or around it when necessary.  The network, rules and social norms will all be changing momentarily.

With the first year college jitters, also came a tremendous excitement of the unknown.  There were going to be things to learn that would shape who I would become and what my first job would be - thanks WZBT and fans of Kelly's Campus Countdown for my first marketing job in radio.  And thanks to the scheduling gods for putting my French and creative writing classes in the afternoon since I soon learned that the morning was not my most inspirational time of day, unless you count sleeping as a creative process. I guess I should also now be grateful for feeling the pangs of a really small school since that lead me to study abroad my Junior year, which began my insatiable wanderlust.

And then of course there was the excitement of the people you would meet, and the mark they'd leave.  My dad always said that college was just as much about learning new subject matter as it was about learning how to interact with people from different backgrounds and different personalities.

As I put my final flexgrip pen in my suitcase, I feel a bit like a kid again - anxious, nervous, but beyond excited for the people I will meet, the learning I will acquire, and the je ne sais quoi that lies ahead. 

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Pourquoi Paris: FAQ

I realize that most people don't often quit their jobs to go live in another country because the food and wine rock, but after making my decision to do just that, you would have thought I had announced I was setting fire to my place to go live on the moon without oxygen.  I have received a lot of interesting reactions, stares and many questions, so I thought I'd take the time to answer a few of the most frequently heard ones so we can then move directly into the Paris fun.

Let me get one whole group out of the way.

Is your job transferring you?  Are you moving for a guy?  Are you selling your place?  Do you have a job there? Are you aware the French are all rude?   

You've got some cojones.
I haven't heard that statement said to me in a very long time, if ever, and I love hearing it now.  I have often talked about days or years of my life as just getting on the habitrail wheel that hamsters will spend hours running on and not going anywhere.  I logged some hours on that wheel, and it kept me going, but now that I just got off, I'm already seeing things in an entirely different way.  The world feels much bigger now, including my condo in LA, which could eat my Parisian apartment as an amuse bouche.

So you're doing the whole Eat, Pray, Love thing?
The author and I are in fact both women, and there are planes involved to take an adventure, but I'm not running away from a bad divorce, a bad job, or a bad situation.  In fact just the opposite.  I've had a great job for over 14 years and even had an nice promotion opportunity that I turned down for a different life experience.  I am a lucky and loved gal with an incredible family and amazing friends who add a richness to my life that even a French chef can't beat.  Beach living is easy and enjoyable, so running away from something I am not.  Running towards a new experience, I am.

What are your plans and goals while you're over there?
My goal is to be without a goal and a plan through the end of the year.  I do love a well thought out, structured, bulleted plan, but it's time to step away from the Excel spreadsheet, and see where the day, the people and the smells take me.  Perhaps I'll even have people plan or suggest a day's itinerary.  The suggestion box is open.

Do you speak fluent French?
If I were living in Dr. Seuss' monosyllabic play land where we talked about the pen on the floor and the door on the left, then yes, I'm fully fluent.  If it gets much more complicated than that, let's hope my non goal oriented trip does in fact find me in French school when not eating and drinking all day.

Why Paris?
I've always considered myself part French, even though the closest blood I have to it is an inordinate amount of Brie and Camembert flowing through my veins.  Say what you will about my countrymen, they know what to do with the simple snail, grape and potato, and the views can't be beat.
Place des Vosges
Where will you be living in Paris?
Infamous fallafel spot near my apt
I'll be living in the 4th arrondissement, in the Marais, a bustling area filled with great shops, cafes and an eclectic mix of people.  I'm just down the street from Paris' first planned square, Place des Vosges, commissioned by Henry IV in 1605, and now home to a lovely park outlined by upscale galleries, restaurants and cafes. My apartment (click to see pictures) is cute and cozy - read: tiny. And while there is no oven, there are free calls to the US, so expect some early morning calls LA!

My college friend Jen who
is nearly a native Parisian
Do you know anyone in Paris?
I do know a few people in Paris, but have even more friends who have local Parisian amis, aunts, nieces, slightly crazy former co-workers that might be semi-normal, but if not, who cares because it'll make a good story later.  I can't thank everyone enough for all of the introductions and the welcome that I've been receiving from people whom I'm never met.  The global community is truly awesome.

How long are you going?
I don't know and that's pretty exciting.  See goals/no goals section above.  If I had to guess now, I'd say I'll be in Paris all next year.  I'll be home at Christmas and will then evaluate whether I'll be moving there, elsewhere or maybe the moon idea doesn't sound so bad anymore.

So why ARE you going?
I'm going for inspiration and a new adventure.  I've enjoyed the last 14 years at my job, but started to enjoy even more, all of the food and wine classes I have been taking on the side.  I'm looking forward to continuing that education in the city that wrote the book on it, and then writing about my experiences, so apologies in advance if you grow tired of another picture of me eating some odd animal part with another glass of wine in my hand. Hopefully that answers most of the big questions. I'm looking forward to my next question of, vin rouge ou vin blanc.