Friday, March 25, 2011

Out & About in Paris

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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.