Let’s play catch up.
Sorry this post is a bit long, but here is a summary of life so far.
To say my first weeks in France have been filled with ups and downs would probably be the biggest fib I’ve ever told you. In reality, these last couple of weeks have thrust me into the fastest roller coaster of emotions I’ve ever been on. I go from wanting to cry over the tiniest things (as well as some other more important things) to wanting to cry because—voila!—there’s the Eiffel Tower I’ve always dreamed of seeing up close.
Needless to say, my first week here was a bit of a “baptism by fire” (which I have clumsily translated for you into the title of this post). Straight off my flight—9 hours to London, a 3 hour connection, and then 1 hour to Paris—my host mom, la mère, met me at the airport and whisked me into the city center while I tried my hardest to maintain some sort of a conversation in French. Despite her fluency in English, she was (and still is) resolute about indoctrinating me into the language. While I’m grateful she is so eager to help me learn, it was more than a little overwhelming in the beginning.
In Paris, we stopped by my little apartment, met my host dad, le père, and dropped off my big luggage—2 suitcases each weighing about 50 pounds that we dragged up 7 flights of stairs. Yes, folks, that’s right, seven flights of stairs. No elevator.
After a quick browse around my little studio, we loaded ourselves back into the car and drove 5 hours to the grandparents’ country house in Auvergne. I slept the whole way and woke just in time for our midnight arrival, where we were greeted by the entire family, all welcoming me with cheek kisses and heavy French accents. Once I made it to my bed, I slept again for a long time.
When I did finally wake, the view from the house (smartly built with windows all along the front side) was certainly worth the jet-lagged journey. Auvergne is a beautiful place; a bustling town nestled inside what la grand-mère referred to as “medium” mountains. In the center of the city stood a great black cathedral, colored that way I learned, because it was made from volcanic rock in the surrounding mountains. The grandparents’ summer house itself was a stunning little gem, perched up on a hill and surrounded by trees and wild fruits (we picked our own blackberries with the kids).
The weekend was filled with croissants, cooking, conversation, and me trying not to convince myself to hop on the first plane back home. As beautiful as this little piece of the countryside was, it was also incredibly overwhelming, and I was incredibly exhausted. The family couldn’t have been nicer or more helpful, and the food was delicious, but by the time Sunday rolled around I was definitely ready to get back to the city and rest.
The car ride home, this time with both kiddos in tow, ended up being a little over 7 hours because of all the traffic. By the time we got home around 8:30, we ate a quick dinner and la mère drove me back to my apartment where I was greeted by my 2 giant suitcases yet to be unpacked and a bathroom I could barely fit into. The next morning, I had to be ready to go by 10am so la mère and I could pick up the kids from their sports camp. And this is how the rest of the week went—me traversing Paris to collect les enfants and spending the rest of the day entertaining them. More exhaustion.
I just kept telling myself to make it through the week, because school would start the next week and it would all get a little less chaotic. By Friday I was worn out, but that morning the agency I went through held a rendez-vous at a little café for the first Au Pair arrivals. I met up with about 8 other girls, many of whom were experiencing similar first week turmoil, and it was all like a breath of fresh air.
When the weekend rolled around, I had a good sleep in, and then hopped the first metro to see the Eiffel Tower for the first time up close. I instantly felt like bursting into tears, but this time out of joy. The rest of the weekend offered walks along the Seine river, garden wandering, talks with other Au Pairs, and lunch in little cafés.
Like almost everything in life, big changes can come with big challenges. But they also come with big rewards and unique opportunities. I think this year I will benefit most by finding a healthy balance between work and pleasure and remembering to soak in the moments I have here.
Why yes, Paris, I do think I love you.