Thursday, August 4, 2011

Off...Off the Beaten Path

Europe provides an array of distinguished languages, cuisines, landscapes, and people. I've come to realize that this is a much cherished treasure of the inhabitants of this continent. I, myself, have been looking forward to this commodity of travel. Most things are a car ride or few hours flight away.

My first summer as a European resident brought me a short distance ( mere three hours drive from Paris) to Brugge, Belgium. My initial dose of a holiday. There was nothing I didn't enjoy of this medieval city and it surroundings, maybe except the weather. It rained nearly everyday except two, one of which we went to the coast and enjoyed the beach. I discovered they really do make outstanding waffles! The people are friendly and mostly speak some English. Heck, I even got to watch Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows Part 2 in English, with double subtitles in Dutch and French. It was a short vacation but well packed week excursion. And it pretty much spoiled me.

A week later, we were to embark on another holiday of sorts. My husband's job brings him to Moldova about once a month for one week throughout the year, but this summer it was going to host us for three weeks. Having been to another Eastern European city (Bucharest) for a brief weekend, I had some idea of what to expect. And honestly, it wasn't my first choice, or a second for that matter. I was going because keeping the family unit together as much as possible is the most important. It's hard enough for my daughter to deal with his business travel of 5 days per month. It's not easy for me either. With all the changes this year has brought, I knew accompanying him would be the right thing to do, emotionally for my little one. As long as daddy is around, all is good.

Traveling is something I enjoy much, up until this point it really has been rather sumptuously ordinary. Moldova is not, rather Off... Off the Beaten Path. I was definitely unprepared. Mind you, I was also pretty darn sick. On two antibiotics for Strep throat, or Angine as the French call it. I could barely swallow liquids, and my energy level was left of zero. Regardless, I put on a brave face until we boarded the sleeper train from Bucharest to Chisinau (Moldova's capitol city). Up until then the travel was fair and normal.

First of all, we believed we had purchased first class tickets. The seller at the station spoke English, so it wasn't a matter of misunderstanding. She just neglected to tell us they were sold out, and gave us second class instead. The realization hit with a strong foul smell of body odor in a scorching hot train car, the hottest of the entire antiquated line. We were in a four person sleeper cabin with an old Moldovan lady and a younger scantly dressed woman, both of whom were friendly. It didn't matter... misery set in. I was physically spent, and emotionally ill-equipped for the 12 hour journey. I didn't attempt to hide my gloom from my husband, who happened to be disappointed but quickly saw it as part of the adventure. I wasn't in an adventurous mood, period.

The snack bar car brought some relief, and being at the end of the train gave us a view of some empty cabins. A few conductors came in for their evening meal. My husband asked the one in charge of our car, if we could switch in the best mix of sign language with the few Romanian words he knew. The somewhat handsome authority frowned, then glanced at me as I sat by an open window. Giving him my best puppy eyes, I pushed out my belly as much as possible, rubbing it as if I was pregnant. I know, I know shameless. Means to an end, and I had no qualms about it! He looked over at his boss who was in deep conversation with another, then he turned back to my husband, tapped his shoulder and said “Da” (which means yes in Romanian & Russian). We nodded our heads in gratitude. Hell, I could've laid a wet one on him, hardly appropriate after all I was with child...

Our hopes were quickly dashed, when both cabins were occupied on the way back to our little hell hole. The first by our former roommate in the skimpy mini-dress, and the second by a gypsy, whom I saw at the station in Bucharest begging for money. She probably was a stow-away, because I doubt she even had a ticket. So I resigned myself to our hidey hole inferno for the ten hour ordeal left ahead. A good night's sleep could have happened if pill induced. Unfortunately, I didn't have any such meds on hand. Of course my husband and daughter slept. Typical. So I plucked out my HTC from my backpack, went to my Kindle app and began re-reading Pride & Prejudice.

Around 2am, we were stopped at the Romanian border for exit control. No one, absolutely no one is allowed to the toilet, not even pregnant me. The conductor yelled at me, sort of. So I waddled back to my quarters in the best pregnant run I could muster, and silently giggled all the way. Ten minutes later, The border police appeared, brawny & scary in their military green uniforms. They took our passports which freaked me out, but I realized they took everyone's including little old lady roomie's. Once we got it back, the train was allowed to cross into Moldova. At this point, our conductor came to fetch me,, sneaking me into the toilet. He sternly told me I had one minute. Pregnant ladies always get preferential treatment.(wink, wink). Afterward, I rushed back to my cabin and waited. The Moldovan Border police round went smoother, faster, and much less scary.

Following our entry, I foolishly thought I could squeeze in a few hours of sleep (insert sinister laugh). About an hour or so after, we hit the part of the tracks that change. Yes, change. So this roughly two hour operation of actually elevating each individual car and replacing the corresponding boogies (the part that contains the axles & wheel sets, was quite tedious & loud. At this point my husband and daughter were up, curiously gazing out the window, both completely fascinated. He urged me to look out as well. Otherwise, I was being a “pooper”. Really?! No energy left to retaliate on that one. So I gave it a go, but since they were on the top bunk, their view was much better than mine, and frankly I had no interest. I picked up my phone again and continued reading Jane Austen's novel. Miraculously, I feel asleep for maybe two hours at most. Exhaustion knocked me out. I woke up shortly before we hit Chisinau. I have never been happier to see a city I've never been to nor had any desire to see before. Little did I know , the surprises didn't stop there.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Rubbing Off

“Excuse Me?! You cut in front of me. While I was fetching my wallet in my bag, you cut right in front of me. ” My finger was still on her shoulder from tapping to get her attention. The twenty-something girl looked back up at me with a disconcerted expression. She stared at me as if no one had ever called her out on anything before. Huh, she's obviously never been to Paris! I continued, “There are three lines, one for each machine. You were on that line, and then when I wasn't looking... you walked right in front of me. Not nice.” I lifted my finger from her shoulder, and waved it in back & forth about a foot away from her face. Embarrassed, as a few rush-hour folk were observing our exchange, she apologized, saying she hadn't seen me. I made a protesting snorting sound, and then waved my hand as to say get out of my way now. She scuttled away. I got my LIRR ticket, and descended down to the track, back to Long Island. In retrospect, perhaps I was being a little harsh, but there were other emotions brewing underneath that very well made my temper reach it's hotspot a lot quicker.

New Yorkers get a bad rep, more than what they actually deserve... I think. Yes, we are impatient. We want everything fast, now! We are always in a hurry, pushing through, not really looking but knowing we have to get through the crowd. And we never ever bother with strangers on the street. But in all my life as an inhabitant, I never really observed people actually telling complete strangers what & how they actually felt about what said person just did, or what their child just did. Not the Parisian! God forbid your 1 ½ year old kid plucks a flower from the park's garden, or you are pushing your stroller on a narrow sidewalk, and Ms .Dior doesn't have enough room to strut through. Proper behavior is essential but yet they don't necessarily demonstrate either. Once at Galerie Lafayette, I went to grab a shoulder bag off the hook to get a better look at it. A tall slender woman just passed in between, hitting my arm, and didn't even apologize. A strange noise emanated from my lips, it was a pfff - growl. She glared back, I glared harder. She kept walking. What's wrong with me? I thought. I feel angrier now than I ever did in living in New York.

A year ago, I wouldn't have tapped the line-cutter at Penn Station, nor would I have growled at the rude woman in the department store (although if I could have known the right French words, I probably would've used them instead). I also probably wouldn't have told a woman she was rude after she didn't thank me for holding the first set of doors open, and then she didn't even reciprocate by holding the second set open for me. I went right up to her and tapped her on the shoulder. I better watch that finger, one day I am going to tap the wrong person. Well, I got nine more.

After three months in Paris, I am becoming more Parisian than I ever thought I would be. And it's the one thing, I least expected to adopt. The behavior is exclusive to this old pristine city. My husband once told me that “Parisians are crazy”, although he now denies he ever said any such thing. I would say they certainly are special, in all the wrong and right ways. Now, if only the language could be just as easily absorbed... wouldn't that be something!

Thursday, May 26, 2011


The station harbored a crowded rush hour. Something surged inside of me, an excitement unmatched by anything else. I zigzagged my way to the number one, the red line, the NYC subway. Moving around, transferring to the Times Square Shuttle, and then the Uptown 6, was all instinct. I didn't even bat an eyelash to get to my destination on the Upper East Side. Only years of living in one place, can things be done with such ease. It was a comfort I needed so much, a comfort I missed dearly.

Going back home, after such a short period in Paris, was full of ambivalence. Was it too soon? Should I postpone? I remember boarding the plane from Charles De Gaulle, the intro to P. Diddy's song “Coming Home” played in my head. Friends and Family were waiting for me. My daughter eager to see her grandmother, her BFF- Sophie, and all else she left back in her “other home far away”, as she puts it. Still, I was unsure.

The first night back, I had dinner with a friend, an outright All-American and a real blonde to boot. We laughed as we always did because that's mostly what we do when we are together, just laugh about anything & everything. As much fun as I was having, something still felt absent. Thereafter, all my subsequent reunions with friends I've missed so so much, felt pretty much the same, great but something amiss. Towards the end of my second week, I saw my All-American friend again along with our other good friend, the trio was reunited. We hung out, laughed, ate sushi, laughed, drank beer, laughed, and then I sadly left. At some point during our evening, one of them said to me, “Isn't it weird? You don't live here anymore.” I didn't live here anymore. New York was no longer my home. I no longer had a key to my front door. I no longer had the front door. I no longer lived in this place, meaning New York, a place that held so much of my identity, my life. When I thought of France, technically my new home, it didn't feel quite right either. I had a nice new apartment, made some wonderful new friends, and my husband was back in his homeland but where did that leave me...

After spending a final day in Manhattan before returning to Paris, I sat on the LIRR train ready to head back to my mom's in Great Neck. As I sat there listening to the noises of a bustling rush hour train at Penn Station, 9to5ers getting their alcoholic beverage on the platform before heading to their families, I felt pang in my chest. I knew that feeling all too well, only in times of great emotions did my heart feel that heavy. I tired to fight back tears by placing on my headphones and turning on my IPod. As I secluded myself listening to Mumford & Sons, I realized that I was still looking around at my old life. Although I had moved away from Long Island around the same time I got married, I looked at all the people who stilled called it home. So, I simply closed my eyes.

The music didn't help either. My mind raced, making it harder to fight back the urge to break. I did not do so when I left New York in February. I did not do so even in my most solemn states of homesickness in those first few weeks in Paris. I did not even break when I came back to NY almost two weeks ago. Why now? Why was it so hard to fight back those inevitable tears? I had enough, I had had my fair share of grief, and that is exactly what I had not wanted to admit to myself... I had held off the grieving long enough. I momentarily opened my eyes to see who took the adjacent seat to mine. A young Asian looking man, listening to his own IPod. He quickly smiled without making much eye contact, whipping out a newspaper. I turned to look out the window. The train was pulling out of the station with the platform speeding away, we entered the tunnel. I reached into my pocket and pulled out a tissue, turned my body towards the black window and wiped my tears.

Back in February, I read a book called, Almost French by Sarah Turnbull, an expat living in Paris. She recounts when tears took her by surprise as the plane left her native Australia, heading back to Paris. “But Australia is the home of homesickness and my history – a powerful whirlpool of family and friends, memories and daily trivia that I used to take for granted but now seem remarkable... I could drop my guard I didn’t even know I'd been carrying.” In that moment, I understood her words, felt their weight, and knew things were never going to be the same for me.

Now being back in France, seems harder than ever, monumental. Even hearing the word “Bonjour” sounds like an insult, a mockery on some days. It's more than being outside of my element, being the odd man out, that would not be a new role for me. Again as Ms Turnbull so well put it, “Living in Paris requires constant effort: effort to make myself understood, effort to understand & be alert for those cultural intricacies...” and at times it is downright exhausting!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Finding My Inner Pigeon

Beginnings are always exciting, full of anticipation, followed by the need for things to be perfect... much like a first date or the potential of a new friendship. So you can only imagine how excited I was for my second meet-up - a children's music session- with the English Speaking Mums of Paris (the new name to my Meet-up group, previously British Mums & Babies Coffee Morning). Not my first venture into the centre of Paris but first to Montparnasse, the home to the tower that can virtually be seen from anywhere in the city. Just keep in my mind, I am completely naïve to the new obstacles that present themselves in this new city of mine.

Missing the bus from my home, the first step in delving into public transportation, was the first sample of my day. Waiting for the next bus would make too late, so I ended up walking to the RER station. I had the genius idea of a shortcut which tacked on another 20 minutes, as I got horribly lost. Nothing in France is simple, especially the street layouts... not at all like the NYC grid, and even most surrounding suburbs. However, I did befriend a nice Brit who helped me get back on track. She looked a little Asian like me, so we had an instant kinship, but that’s besides the point.

The easiest part I will say was the Paris metro. Hey, once you study the ain't really all that scary. The Tour Montparnasse told me I was in the right place. I grabbed my new Android phone as I felt quite clever using its GPS to lead me the rest of the way. It informed me I was about three metro stops short of my final destination. That can't be right. So, I tucked it back in my pocket, deciding to wing it, and thinking technology ain't all what its cracked up to be. My inner pigeon has never steered me wrong... never.

Winging it always brought me back to my point of origin, the Montparnasse Tower. After about 25 minutes, I was beginning to develop a great dislike for this Parisian landmark. My fidgety child strapped in her stroller just wanted to get out for the merry-go-round at the foot of this edifice. Knowing I was in trouble, I decided to call one of my new mates. Unfortunately, she is not very good at giving directions, she said so herself. About four calls later, I was getting closer but no cigar. I refused to call a fifth time. A woman with three small children was standing on a corner, so I asked her in the best French I know... which isn't saying much. The only words that registered were “deux cent metres” with a finger pointing down the street. Okay, 200 meters to an American can translate into “200 shimmies or 200 winkydinks”. It means exactly nothing. So instead, I followed the direction of her finger.

Realizing that my inner pigeon is only as good as the city it comes from, I was overwhelmed with the feeling of complete ineptness. But I knew I was in the right vicinity, so a glimmer of hope still shone. As I walked along the street, I spotted a stranger halfway down the block. Please don't move, please don't move, I thought. Exhausted and already beaten down by the hot sun, I couldn't walk any faster than I was. With each step I prepped my question in French. The address I sought, was near the post office so all I needed to know is where that was. As I got closer, I could almost taste the triumph. It wouldn't be long now. I walked up to him, he didn't look at me. And just as I opened my mouth to ask, I happen to look down. He was holding a long white stick in front of him... he was blind. Okay, that would explain the sunglasses. It was sunny so I didn't think anything of it. I debated about whether asking him anyway. Can you ask a blind man for directions? Would he tell me how many steps to go and then make a left and another some odd steps and a right? With my French being so poor, I opted against it thinking it might bring me to a new realm I wasn't ready to enter.

I continued to march down the street until I found the bright yellow sign, “La Poste” on a perpendicular street. Jackpot! The gate was right next to it, but of course... I had the access code wrong. So, I made the fifth call that I so much wanted to avoid to save what little was left of my dignity. Needless to say I was late, miffed and rattled, missing all but the last 5 minutes of the after-class lunch. My inner pigeon had failed me tremendously, a first in my book. I'll be damned if I declare my trip a total disaster. I came to meet people and cultivate some friendships, for goodness sakes! So I lingered until there were only a few of us left and proposed a little impromptu excursion in the neighborhood. We went out for a stroll and to a cafe for some drinks. I could now go home feeling somewhat accomplished. Good company always helps.

On the way home, I hopped back on the metro. About three stations before my final stop, a blind man taps me on the shoulder... yes another blind person... and proceeds to ask me if this was so and so stop and if the following stop was so and so. Just my luck or should I say his. Fortunately, my understanding of French tends to be better than my actual ability to speak. I mustered a oui to his questions. I noticed his brows furrow as my answers could have been more articulate but hey, he got the answer which is all that matters.

I vowed that would be the last time I would feel so lost, anywhere. Although I can’t guarantee, I can certainly try. But every time we have a meet-up somewhere new... I shake in my boots!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Fear Delivers Unexpectedly

Fear. The propulsive factor in so many decisions we make or don't make. It can dictate so much. The night my own fear crept in, I remember clearly because it hardly comes alone. What was I doing here? The main question that scrolled through my mind, bringing panic along with it. Each time, I had a different answer. At the moment, they were mostly negative, until that ray of hope that we so often wish for struck through my cloud of gloom. Mentally isolated, I swam through the black hole of the internet, I searched for others in Cyber-space who were in the same boat. Luckily, I stumbled upon on a familiar website -

I found many anglophone groups based in Paris. However, there was one that tickled my curiosity - British Mums & Babies Coffee Morning. The home page looked promising with meet-ups regularly, and one that week at the Musée Rodin. I took it as a sign, since I am fan of the honoured sculptor. Briefly though, I told myself I couldn't join because I am not British. Being a huge anglophile, I wondered if that counted for something. My little arrow glided over the the join button anyway. I followed up with an email to the group organizer apologizing for not being from the Royal Isle. She gladly welcomed me to the group saying there were mothers from all over the Anglophone speaking world with children pretty much in my daughter's age range. Perfect!

The Musée Rodin wasn't hard to find since I had googled it. FYI: I google everything, I mean everything! However, I poorly estimated how big Paris is...again. Fear (yes, fear) of getting lost in the vast metro system I opted to walk. Arriving sweaty with all traces of make-up gone, the group wasn't hard to find in the garden by the museum's cafe. A cluster of pousettes,(or push-chair, pram, or how in America we say... stroller) was a big tip off that I was in the right spot. I was rather early, before the group was too big. I find that in this state of transition all my sensitivities, fears, and angst are heightened. Big groups are one of them.

Late morning into early afternoon, I began to feel the familiar sense of me. The English chatter was comforting. As I talked and opened up to the Mums, I felt relaxed and realized I had finally released my clinched jaw. Even the children were relishing in the company of the group. What was especially wonderful was seeing my own daughter open up to others. She played. She ran. She laughed. She even hugged. And I realized this wasn't just for me but for her too. As articulate as a three year old can be, they still can not express the impact of change. Her world had changed just like mine. She missed hearing the language. She missed seeing her friends. And here in the middle of Paris, she was making new ones. We both were. It was a wonderful day, despite the fact I didn't really get to see any of the sculptures. I suppose that speaks volumes. I didn't know it yet or necessarily believe it, but my life was about to get better... our lives were... in many more ways than just one.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

A Fashion Must!

No Parisian should be without one, or almost Parisian (as I am since I technically don't live within the city limits, and not because I am American) It is the biggest must-have item. Everyone, and I mean everyone, has one regardless of age, religion, race, or gender. An accessory that comes in a gamut of colors, patterns, styles, even some in patent leather. Oh La La! It's not a beret (way past that l'èpogue), nor a Hermes bag (not affordable to everyone), nor a Chanel something (although I'd really like a pair of one of their amazing sunglasses), but... a trolley, a.k.a. bag on wheels.

Back in New York, you only see little old ladies pulling them along, filled with groceries. They are usually metal and squeaky. And only in the outer boroughs, I have yet to recall seeing one in Manhattan. Anyway, these things are everywhere here. I can’t step out into town for a baguette without seeing at least 6 or 8. Of course, you can see the little old French lady with one, tugging it along the narrow slanted sidewalks, but … you even see the big sunglasses-wearing-sleek-blonde-past-her-peak- French-model towing one behind her catwalk strut.

At first, I laughed but then it got me thinking... they're onto something here, and its not the fact the French can make anything look chic. Nevermind the different varieties or the ridiculous prices some go for (I saw one for 165 Euros online, absurd), it definitely has a utility. The thing I initially scoffed at ..was now appealing to me. I wanted one!

There are so many to choose from, it was overwhelming. In the end, price won...15 Euros! I ain't that crazy to pay more than that. If I was, my husband would... make me return it. I can only imagine what the leather one cost. Imagine if Louis Vuitton made one from it's signature motif. Hmmm.... no, no, no... not that crazy. Anyway, I used it yesterday for the first time, and I am in love. Faire les courses (grocery shopping) is such an ease. No more sore arms and/or neck from heavy bags. No more tipping over the stroller with the ginormous reusable grocery bag when my daughter leaps out of it. Now, I simply drop off my munchkin at school and strut into town with my little fiery red roller. I may not have runway experience but I can work it. Life just got easier.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Out & About in Paris

Outline by
After a week in France, my daughter developed a fascination for the Eiffel Tower, Tour Eiffel. How she even knows about it, is beyond me. We had not been anywhere near it. My husband suggested visiting it on Sunday. Just so you know, bus drivers as the Big Guy up above, rest on Sundays. Unfortunately, I didn't know this when I agreed to the outing. Therefore, we trekked to our RER station (commuter train) which took a considerable amount of time. I began turning sour somewhere during the way.

Two things surprised me. One, we technically don't live in Paris. Two, we live three stops away from what is considered Paris. It was like going from 46th Street on the R in Astoria Queens, to 59th Street in Manhattan. However, the Parisian underground is far more complicated, running deeper than New York's... with far more stairs. Not desirable when traveling with tot and stroller. We get off at Les Halles. Again my lovely husband suggests this station as it is more central...but farther from the freakin' Eiffel tower as I later learned. I'll admit this day was filled with negativity from me. Everything I saw was through a dark veil. I had awoken that morning having to remind myself where I was, and felt there was nowhere I wanted to be but home, New York. Paris was the most unappealing place in the world at that moment.

We walked along the Seine with enthused tourists. We passed the Louvre, book venders along the river. sightseeing boats on the water, and it looked like we made no gains on territory when looking up at the Eiffel tower in the distance. And when hunger struck, the streets are labyrinth leading you in circles of a place to eat especially when all you want is slice of pizza. By the way, it was the best freakin' pizza I've had. Well worth the extra steps, only in hindsight though.

After the resto, short for restaurant in France, we resume our foot journey. One thing that I can appreciate about New York is anywhere you might stand, you can see a landmark- the Chrysler building, the Empire State building and what was the World Trade Center. You can have a sense of where you are & where you are going. The Eiffel tower, our destination and the only somewhat visible edifice, hides behind beige ornate facades, that aren't even that tall. In fact nothing here is that tall, except the Monteparnasse Tower. New York soars up. Paris spreads out. And it takes a really effing long time to get anywhere a pied. A good pair of sneaks is what you need. I cursed the day I left them at my mom's before leaving.

Arriving at the Eiffel, I am zapped of energy and my lack of enthusiasm takes new lows. This place is a circus, a tourist trap. Street sellers step in your path, get in your face trying to sell you bogus souvenirs - a tower on a keychain, a tower that lights up, a pink one, a blue one, even a battery operated puppy and monkey that flips in the air. The last one is definitely out of sorts. As I lag behind my husband & daughter who are dashing to get on the ticket line, a vendor comes up to me. He says something that sounds English. With a fleeting thought that I must look American, I shoo him away with my hand and try to step around him. He then says “Ni-hao”. For those of you who don't me or know what I look like. I am not Asian nor anything remotely close...unless someone in my family is keeping secrets. However, my entire life I have been mistaken for some kind of Asian, usually Filipino, then Chinese, Japanese and lastly Hawaiian. As I walk away, I can't help but laugh out loud. There are some things that just never change no matter where you are. At last something familiar.

I find my husband on the ticket line, with my daughter trying to break free of her stroller straps and jet over to the flipping monkeys. We wait, and wait, and wait. The line gets longer but we don't seem to move much. I get us some snacks, as the pizza we ate is already long gone. Note: never buy anything at the Eiffel. It will be cold, tasteless, and expensive. Instead go across the street by the carousel. They have a snack truck with awesome crepes, and hot dogs. However, the carousel is 3 Euros a ride (about $4.50) and it ain't long... at all! We gave up on the Eiffel and went there instead to please my daughter, who was still asking for the flippin' monkeys. I think she saw a Panda too. Weird.

At the end of the day, all we walked in Paris had to be walked back. The train ride home was too short, to get any type of rest. Then we had to trek back to our residence. By the time I sat on my Ikea Pong chair, my feet were so sore... they were numb with blisters, a cherry on top. I sulked and drank Leffe Ruby (beer with  sweet drops of berry syrup). I looked out onto my balcony, into the darkness trying to make out shapes in the distances, but couldn't see clearly. Instead, I went inside, closed the door, and went to bed.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Murphy's Playground

On any given day, to my daughter's good fortune, we can walk a 100 ft from our front door onto the playground, or Aire de Jeux, as it's called in French. She has spent more time on the slide in the less than three weeks residing here, than she did back home in two months time. Definitely a plus for the premises. And in less than three weeks, I've discovered the intricacies of playground dealings... the mothers mingle, the kids play, and encounters are a little more than interesting the French way.

On a particularly beautiful day, there are many as I believe Mother Nature seems to favor this part of the world, trees were budding and flowers blooming. And after our first walk to town, I stopped by the playground nestled between our loop of buildings. As expected, there were a group of children running, jumping, screaming... being kids. Jasmine smiled and ventured on her own, trying out two slides, and two little bouncy things. I sat on a bench, looking on, hoping I wouldn't have to talk to anyone. My French is limited, very limited, embarrassing actually. However, Murphy's law was in effect in more ways than one. Within ten seconds, I was approached. A young girl about the age of thirteen holding a book, made a beeline for me, taking a seat on the small bench I sat on. She looked at me, as if to say something. Before her mouth uttered a word, with panic I smiled, got up, feigned helping Jasmine with something, and then took a seat on another bench. Discreet, I thought I was ... Uh-uh. The girl stood up and came over to sit with me again. And this time she was quick to ask “Vous parlez anglais? (Do you speak English?)”.Assuming she heard me speaking with Jasmine, I nodded “Oui (Yes)”. The girl giggled, and then peeled the price sticker off her book, put it on her forehead, laughed, and looked at me with googly eyes. Unsure of what to say and before the situation got anymore bizarre, I got up once again and went to Jasmine. This time, I didn't leave her side.

It wasn't long before I was spinning Jasmine around in this big yellow carousel. The other children quickly joined, including another little boy around her age. I noticed he had been staring at Jasmine, trying to get her attention since we arrived. Boy, they start young here. Anyway, some of the kids asked if Jasmine spoke French? When I told them we spoke English, they began saying the only English words they knew -Hello/Goodbye, yes/no, I love you, and tous the colors of the rainbow- all this in between commands of “VITE! VITE! VITE!” (FASTER! FASTER! FASTER!). We were having a grand ole time. Leave it to me, the first friends I make are all under ten years old.

At one point, the little boy of Jasmine's age, asked me to stop, “Arrête, s'il vous plait. Arrête”. Immediately, I halted the yellow spinner. I helped him off, and he wobbled away to a woman who seemed to be looking after most of the children there. The other kids, impatient, asked me to go again. I turned with all my might. The more they laughed, the faster I turned... well. until we heard the noise. When I turned around...projectile vomit hurled from this little boy's mouth. I had spun so hard, I made him sick. Oh no! I felt instantly mortified. I stopped the spinner once again, grabbed Jasmine and ran over to him. The older caretaker of African descent, cleaned him up. Squatting in front of the little guy, I repeatedly apologized “Je suis désolée. Je suis désolée.”, but his stare was vacant. We crowded around but it was like we weren't there. I felt the corners of my mouth point South.

A chuckle came from behind. The older woman waved her hand in the air, telling me not to worry. “He does this all the time... tomorrow the same thing will happen...He is used to it”, she said in French. I may not speak it but I can understand about a good 80 to 90% of what's being said. She then gathered the children, and waved to me again, “A demain. (Til tomorrow)”. Feeling a little more reassured, I waved back at her and the kids. Walking away, they called out to me in English... “Hello/Goodbye, Yes/No, one/two/three...twenty”and “I love you”... including vomit boy.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Blurrrr....

The River Seine at Carrières-sur-Seine

Arriving in France was like waking up from a dream, not necessarily good, not necessarily bad. The last few weeks in New York were packed with tedious necessities, painstaking good-byes, and un-grounding my very rooted self. Looking back I couldn't pinpoint one particular day or week even, it was just a glob of events, one leading into the next, some great and some not so great, but those are best forgotten. I was relieved as the plane touched down. The move was over. I knew things would be slow again, at whatever speed I wanted them to be. And I was finally at the beginning.

Having visited countless times before, I knew what to expect. Our new apartment was typical French - light and airy, with glass doors opening unto a balcony, not very large but good enough. I made a mental note to keep the balcony off limits to Jasmine until she could be trusted not to try and climb over the railing. My doubts were confirmed the next day when she tried to do just that. Our new but yet old village is quaint with the likely boulanger, crêperie, fresh outdoor market, post office, and a few other basic necessities along the Seine. We are situated where the Impressionist movement began. I bought some paints & canvas for Jasmine and I, all that creative energy emanating from the ground will surely inspire us. She already wants to paint Papa. I took photos of the Seine on Saturday, looking through my camera was like looking at Monet. I could definitely see it and undoubtedly feel it.

Surrounded by so many new things, my thoughts were really on my husband, Jasmine, and me. After six weeks apart, the separation took its toll but I hoped not by much. Both of us experienced this transition in different ways, changing us, a smidgen. With so much emotions and tensions, it was difficult to sift through its wake and find ourselves as a couple, at least for me. If anyone knows us, they know we've been inseparable these past eight years like Paul & Linda (minus the bust for cocaine, of course). I can see and almost touch the old “us”. There are moments were it shines through, when all is relaxed and we're alone. I know a whole lot of adjustment has to happen in our new roles, in a new home, in a new land, before things normalize. Reflecting on the situation now, I can see how leaving New York might've been the easiest part. This is a long journey with many bumps and holes in the road...well at least that's a familiar New York City street.

Monday, March 7, 2011


Leaving New York was the hardest decision I've ever made. It was made with the belief in my French husband that moving to France was going to be a positive change for our family, not that I necessarily found anything wrong with living in New York to begin with. It's not a question of the U.S. versus France. It's a question of New York versus anything else.

I have lived and breathed New York all of my life. All that I know, and all that I am is in that great great job, my solid friends, and my dysfunctional, insufferable at times, & irreplaceable family, are all there. Even my daughter was born in my hometown. I identify with all that this world famous location has to offer. Although, I love to travel and experience new things, I have never wanted to call anywhere else home. Well, all except for London which I can imagine could rise to the challenge,but that would only be temporary.

Nevertheless, my heart made the irrevocable decision of falling for someone who was not a New Yorker, nor American, not even Canadian but for an intriguing, gentle & sweethearted Frenchman. He, too, became an expat for me, eight years ago. To his credit, my husband tends to leap without looking. I am his polar opposite. Deep down, I knew that somewhere down the road I would face the foot of the bridge. After many years of debating, arguing, and many compromises, I crossed it. I didn't walk but I ran. If I'd hesitated one second, took one moment to reflect and look back, would I have done it? I don't know, but I do know it was the only way to do it. The pull of my husband, the pull of my daughter, and the pull of us as a family, I knew I owed it the chance. So here I am in a new apartment, a new street with new neighbors, a new town, and another great world metropolis. So Paris, show me what you got because this New Yorker is one hard sell.