a TAPIF language assistant blog / un blog d’une assistante d’anglais

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Sunday, February 28, 2016

So she thought she could France...

After an overnight train from Narbonne, I arrived in Paris on the morning of Monday, May 20th, giant suitcase in hand(s) once more. People watched me with either pity or disdain in their eyes as I traipsed across town (well, from train to metro station to other metro station) during morning rush hour; one man even stopped, told me (in French) "I'd help you if I didn't have to go to work, but I do," and kept going. (Um, merci, I guess?)

I was very fortunate in that Emily, babe that she is, had asked her university friends Julie, Becky, and Louisa (who were doing their year abroad in Paris) if they could let me crash on their couch for a few nights, and they graciously agreed! I would have been thankful anyway, but I was especially thankful as I basically had no money at this point. Euros, dollars, yen, pesos, didn't matter. I was all-around out o' cash. So I was, and remain, very thankful to these three kind souls for their hospitality. Cheers, ladies! I will never forget this. You have a couch in Texas anytime.

Merci beaucoup, les filles de 142 rue Lafayette! 

I spent three days in Paris, and left on the fourth. It was gloomy the whole time I was there (maybe France was sad to see me go?), and the first two days it was actually pretty rainy. So, I spent my time taking care of some business (a little bit of final shopping, a little bit of shipping things home, and consolidating the contents of one giant luggage and several totes back to just the one giant luggage before I left). I also got to spend some time with that city I love. I had a gyro in the Quartier Latin, walked along the Seine, stopped at Shakespeare and Company to get a book since it was rainy (Hemingway's A Moveable Feast), strolled around on Île de la Cité, and then did a lot of sitting in cafés, reading, and taking every last opportunity to engage in French conversation.

Fortunately, one of my evenings was also filled with a bit of fun with friends! My friends Michelle (California), Nareh (California), and Mary (England), whom I had met on our bus journey to the Sahara (caaaaaasual), were all in Paris, and so we arranged to meet up!

Okay, story about these first three photos: I first met up with Mary at Bastille, and there were police and police cars everywhere. There was also some stage set up facing the roundabout. We joked that perhaps Beyoncé was about to give a show... to the roundabout. I don't know. It was weird. 

"Creer, c'est se souvenir"
("To create is to remember")
Victor Hugo

I should mention I like people watching.

I mean, look at this little boo! How cute is he? He looks like he's into doing hoodrat stuff with his friends.

Falafel is always a good choice. Especially at l'As du Fallafel.
Michelle, Nareh, moi, Mary

I really want this right now.

I can't remember where we went, but I remember we were the only ones downstairs in the cave.


It was so much fun to see all of these girls again! Yet another instance of meeting fantastic people abroad and then being lucky enough to get the chance to cross paths with them again. It's just nice and warm and fuzzy and fun. We did miss the rest of our #camelcrew (Em, Lottie, Louise, & Ayush), though!

The following day, Wednesday the 22nd of May, I spent walking the streets of my beloved Paris, soaking it in and reflecting on the year I'd had. It's always so nice to return to this beautiful city I love so much. It's even nicer that, since I've done all of the big touristy things, I don't feel like I'm missing anything if I spend time just strolling, drinking tea, reading, and people watching. Which was pretty much all I could afford at that point anyway, so it all worked out.

Galeries Lafayette, bien sûr

Place du Tertre, Montmartre (comme j'adore Montmartre)

I sat at this little café in Montmartre a couple streets off Place du Tertre for quite some time. I had a glass of wine, a nutella crêpe, and wrote my very last postcards of the year. I had a nice long conversation with some women sitting at a table near me. One was Scottish and one was Australian; they'd met many years before and became good friends and tried to take trips together every so often. Lovely! 

Anyway, to this day I remember sitting at that café, talking, and then writing, and thinking. I thought about my year. About who I was. About how I'd changed. About the fact that the following day, I'd be returning to Texas again after nearly nine months. I hoped I'd be employed again, and I wondered where it might be. I wondered what it would be like to see my friends, my family, and my sweet Nolie Mae again. I thought about how things would be so very different once I recommenced my American lifestyle. I thought about the people I'd met and the places I'd been and how so, so very grateful I was for all of the opportunities I'd been afforded that year. How lucky I was, and how surreal it all was. I thought for a long time, and many of those thoughts became the contents of my final post, which, by the way, I'll be posting next. (Yes, this is officially my penultimate SYTYCF post.)

Eventually, I got up, intent on doing a bit more wandering on my last day.

la Rue Foyatier (l'escalier de la butte)


a little Amorino by the Bassin Octagonal

some Tuileries and Louvre

le Musée d'Orsay (fave)

more Louvre

Pont des Arts & l'Institut de France

Paris, je t'aime.

[This is the moment I took my last Euroselfie for the year, which I'll give ya in a minute.]

Final photo of the year. I walked down these stairs to the metro, went home, and didn't leave again until the next morning when I left for good.

I remember Skyping my dad that evening from the girls' couch to talk with him about the arrangements for my arrival the following day, as well as about the job possibilities I was considering. I was so stressed about the interviews and which jobs would truly be open and whether or not anyone would hire me. I was worried about when I'd be able to get back to having a salary and benefits so that I could afford my own place again and earn money to pay off my debts. The real world was rushing back to me, fast; the time had come and it was now the eve of reality. I remember my dad, who is a very rational person (logos over pathos, for sure), saying to me "Katy. You are going to be just fine. You might not get any of these jobs we're talking about, and you will still be okay. You moved to France by yourself and handled yourself. You speak fluent French. You can travel the world by yourself. People will want to hire you. Not just as a teacher. You will be just fine." I remember feeling like I could breathe again when he said that. (Also, spoiler alert? I was and am just fine. It's a funny story how. I'll tell ya all about it sometime.)

The next morning, I set off early for Charles de Gaulle, giant suitcase in hand one last time. (Of course, I had to leave some random stuff like vitamins and socks in order to get it to close. But I did it. Back to one suitcase for my grand return!) I was all smiles and cheer, as I was honestly so excited to go home. The whole year I had never gotten homesick, as I had the mindset that I should value where I was when I was there, because I'd only have a certain many days to live in Europe. But still, in keeping with that same mindset, I woke up on May 23, 2013 excited to go home, and everyone who saw me could tell. 

Facebook status from the morning of May 23rd

I have a lovely story from the airport that morning. When I arrived at the check-in counter, the American Airlines employee was a kind French man, and I was happy to profite from one of my last opportunities to speak French. My luggage, weighing in at 69.5 lbs, was going to incur a $60 overweight fee, which I knew. (70 lbs is the absolute limit.) I had my credit card ready to go, when the following happens (all in French):

AA man: "You know, your French is wonderful. It's really beautiful. You don't have an American accent! How can that be? Are you really American?"
moi: "Wow, thank you so much! Well, I wasn't just visiting, I've lived in the south since September. I was an assistante de langue. But yes, I'm really American."

AA man: "Well, I guess that's why your luggage is so heavy. From all of your books that you used because you were studying French, right?"
moi: (clueless) "No, I wasn't studying... I was working. At a high school. I was teaching. I haven't studied in years."

AA man: "Well, I'm sure your bag is full of so many heavy books from studying our language, and you've done so well! Let me go ask my colleague if perhaps we can waive your luggage fee since your books are so heavy since you are such a good student and speak such beautiful French."

moi: (finally gets the hint)

And yes, he was able to waive the fee. Isn't that so sweet?! What a perfect final interaction to end my time in France. What a dear man. I do love how excited French people get when they hear an American who speaks French. I'm especially glad because you may remember that I was quite broke at this point in my life.

After an uneventful flight, I arrived home in Texas on a hot, sunny afternoon. I was expecting my family to be there, but instead, my best friends surprised me! (My parents had an event of my brother's to attend; he was graduating high school the following Sunday.)

with Amy... do you see that large Sonic Diet Dr Pepper, EZ ice?! 

with Shannon, Maddie, and Belle

with all of my girls! (and my giant suitcase)

These are the same best friends who had thrown me my bon voyage party in September. I wasn't expecting them to be there at the airport, but I was so glad they were! It was perfect. We headed out to meet my family for TexMex (of course), and all was right in the world. Or at least, all was back to my normal. I was exhausted, but I was home. (I also kept thinking, "HAS EVERYTHING ALWAYS BEEN SO BIG?!" Seriously. Everything is huge in the States/Texas. The cars. The roads. The buildings. The sky. The parking lots. HUGE.)

Facebook status from the evening of May 23rd

And that, mes amis, is the end of this particular story. Sometimes I still can't believe it all happened. I'm so grateful. I can't believe this was and is my life. I filled out all the paperwork, met all the people, survived all the strikes, sometimes scavenged for all the food, went all the places, spent all the money, ate all the pastries, and lived all of the adventures.

I thought I could France. And so I did.

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