After a week in the Holy Land, I couldn’t wait to blog and share our trip. Truly, it was an experience that I will treasure always. But I prefer to wait just a bit and continue to live the trip in my head, savor the anamnesis~then I will write.
Flying home late (late!) last night, I felt excited. Like a young child, I looked out the window and marveled at the lights of Paris. Despite the late (early?) hour, I felt giddy. The city layout bright below, the lines beckoning us to come back to our lives in Paris. I was completely comfortable at the airport, only messing up by saying Bonjour instead of Bonsoir. Although technically, the clock was into the new day… it was night time and I was very tired. But I digress… We had no trouble catching a cab, no trouble having the driver understand our address in French, and even asking him to change the route from the GPS to our directions, to save him from having to do a few one way streets. It was a small coup and it felt good.
It felt good to be “home”–home here in Paris. We were greeted with 20+mph winds, temperature below freezing and icy snowflakes falling. But walking into our building, we were home. Our flat was warm, clean and ready for us to rest. Home is comforting. Home is welcoming. Home is happiness. Feeling like home is what I have been waiting for~and it took a trip away from here for me to appreciate and embrace that feeling.
We have been here for exactly three months now and I thought I would focus on what I love about living here. Here are my top ten:
1. The architecture. Every building is unique, glowing with stories to tell. Paris is such an organic city, everything real, everything original.
2. The churches. They are everywhere~and they have people in them at all hours. More often than not, we have stumbled on a relic displayed inside, a history that we can only imagine. Stained glass and architecture to adore. In. Every. Single. One.
3. The wine. As if I really need to write more about it. It has only taken us less than the three months to become the wine snobs we loathe. To be able to pick any bottle, for not much more than “Three Buck Chuck” back home, and enjoy the tantalizing sapidity, talking with our teeth clinched, pinkies out and with funny accents.
4. The people. I have to say, the French get a bum rap. When you think of the French, you normally think of them being snobs. The people we’ve met (for the most part) have been kind and patient with our poor linguistics. They have been helpful, and (for which I am most grateful), they return smiles. Now, when I can actually carry on a real conversation, more than pleasantries, I know I am going to really love the French. There is an assured, nonchalant attitude they carry and I want to be able to imitate that when I am out and about.
5. The diversity. God sure painted a rainbow in France! The colors, the accents, the immigrants~The people here are truly beautiful.
6. The art. My goodness, if I ever thought I would live in a place where all the famous artists trod, I would have paid more attention and tried a little harder in my Humanities class. Unbelievable the talent in one tiny area of the world. And I can go see it any day of the week.
7. The history. The Revolution. World War I and World War II. The Franco-Prussian War. The monuments, the lessons, the stories. I feel I need a bigger brain to hold it all in.
8. The farmers markets. In alleyways every day, selling the same things and the freshest produce~and all too happy to listen to me try out my French. Sometimes my efforts even get me an extra basket of raspberries. The vegetables and fruits are so plenty and so inviting~our palate has expanded and our plates are more colorful.
9. The food. Not crazy about traditional French cuisine, but the fact that there are bistros, brasseries, cafés, Michelin Star restaurants and Auberges, whatever we are in the mood for, literally right around the corner. Any corner (well, maybe not the Michelin Stars, but they are close!) It is a gastronomical haven. Refer to #5, establishments of all ethnicities.
10. The soap. Yes, the soap. I love that my “every day, wash your hands at the sink” soap is L’Occitane, my most favorite company for years, always a special treat, and it is now available right around the corner. We wash our hands often and having that little bit of Provence on me makes me smile. Every day.
It isn’t always easy but the ease is more frequent than the difficulties. With that being said, here are a few things that are most challenging:
1. My speech. I still speak slowly, classic tourist-like. My eyes get big and I’m sure fear is written on my face if they ask a question I am not ready for. I need to get an air of aloofness and drop the endings of words, and then I will be understood…And fingers crossed the practice helps me to answer.
2. The phone. I honestly panic when a French number comes up on my phone, one that isn’t programmed with a name. It is difficult enough to understand people but at least I can look at them and know the context when I am speaking face to face. Relying on only vocal, nasal, and half the word pronounced at auctioneer’s speed, my poor hearing aids can only comprehend so much.
3. The post office. Fortunately I translate everything I want to buy or say before I go, and have it on a paper to practice while in line, because I usually end up showing them the paper after asking three times. Funny that no matter which post office I use, I have the same difficulties. I have yet to dare mail a package…
4. Our names. I have to catch myself calling Liam by his nickname, “L”, as elle means “her” in French. Mari means “husband” and I have received inquiring looks when I say my name, so I now go by Mari Catherine, which I think I prefer anyway. Somehow Catherine softens husband. Who knew? The bewilderment of “husband calling her” is one I am happy to abandon when we are out in public. Now to come up with a new nickname for Liam…Wade is just Wade. Unique, and most Parisians probably think it is a normal American name. We know better. Perhaps we should call Wade Jean Pierre or something, just to throw everyone off?
5. The shopping. Immensely grateful for Google translate, I try to look up each thing to buy, but my recipes I brought are not as “quick and easy” as they were back in the US. No can do with pinto beans here, nor refried beans or anything similar. I am learning to adapt and adjust and abandon…and am so grateful (oh! #11 for above!) that the pizza place around the corner from us understands me perfectly. Perhaps it is because I order THE same thing each week? Nah…I’m just fitting in. C’est bon.
The trite saying, “Home is where the heart is” has truth. As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.~ Joshua 24:25. Over 28 years of moving around, both are dear to my heart, give me strength. So to Paris, I say, merci de m’accueiulir. Thank you for welcoming me. I am home.