The little problems abroad…

I am getting tired of having to change FB profile pictures to somebody’s flag.  I know it is a very complicated subject but I feel like Rodney King – why can’t we all just get along?

Some friends question my going back to Europe.  But remember, we have our own problems here.  Not even addressing the crazies with guns who go into schools and movie theatres – we had our own terrorists – the Oklahoma bombing and the Boston Marathon.

Do you know about the manneken pis?  It’s a well-known fountain in Brussels of a little boy peeing.  My parents took me there when I was 10.  They were excited to see the famous place.  I was ten.  I was mortified.

Now I love the image below.


Um. Yup – Going back!

Someone said my last blog seemed to skip the decision to go back to Paris.  Just jumped into My Plane Leaving.

Maybe so.

So, yes. I am returning.  Is anyone really surprised?  I mean, I did leave things in my apartment!  Sure, they were things that she could just throw out.  It’s not like I left my Degas pastel… If only I owned one.

So what’s the plan, Stan?  Oh la la.  Qu’est-ce que c’est le plan Alain?

Second verse, same as the first (thanks to Herman…). Second nine months? Same as the first?

It will be different.  I am not sure what it will be like.  I know things.  I can navigate through life in Paris and in France.  Funny, I really haven’t been speaking much French these past 3 months but my confidence level is very high.  No hesitation.  I will just jump right in, en francais. Last year I spent several months just figuring out how to survive.

I do have to get there first, though.  This year I am approaching packing very differently.  My suitcase and duffle weigh a combined 13.8 pounds.  And I have sacks stacked around the bedroom with different themes – scarves, misc. kitchen, misc household, shirts, electronics, misc bath, and on and on.  Each weighed separately and logged into an Excel spreadsheet.  The only thing not bagged up yet are the jeans and slacks.  Yikes.  Probably the heaviest of the clothing.  Right now I only have 7.2 pounds to go.

Two strategies.  Load the carry on with all the heaviest things and pray for nice hefty guys to take pity on me.  Or pay the extra fee for an overweight bag..  The limit per bag is 50 lbs. To take 20 extra pounds for a total of 70 pounds, you only have to cough up $200.  Decision not made yet.  I have 12 days to figure this out.  (It is a free award miles flight so I could be tempted to pay the extra.  The shuttle driver in Paris who will have to climb 3 flights will not be so happy.)

Through a stroke of brilliance!  Well no, pure chance.  I realized I am arriving on a Sunday.  So the threat of a strike or manifestation is low.  Nil.  What self-respecting Frenchman would have a strike on a Sunday!  They stay home on Sundays.  They strike against the idea of working on Sunday!  So I should have no problem getting from CDG to my apartment.  I can pick up some things at the grocery store that is open 9-9 every day.  And Monday I will be off to Monoprix for a big purchase with delivery for all my staples.  I recall last year when I had to buy things based on how heavy they were and what I could carry on a single trip.  No more!  Livraison! (Delivery!)

My friends are waiting for me.  I got a text from a friend with a photo of our Conversation cafe – said Cafe Ruc is waiting for you!  Others are suggesting rendez-vous.  I was offered a volunteer role of chairing the Bloom Day at the American Church in Paris (not Bloom as in the James Joyce Bloom Day – Bloom Where You Are Planted for new expats to learn about Paris and France.)  I was honored, but the more I thought about it and the time it would demand, I declined.  But museums and exhibitions beckon.

A friend here said, well, it will be like being retired here but you are there.  Except that I have three new coaching clients, so I am not quite retired.

It will be different, that’s for certain.  It will be the same, that’s for certain.

But above all, it will be Paris.

Up Up and Away… Soon

My plane leaves on April 9, two weeks from today.  It certainly doesn’t seem like 3 months have gone by.  I filled the time catching up with friends in CA and WA.  Everyone asked – what’s it like to be back? I’ve pointed out some of the differences – going out without makeup, purse, or visiting Safeway in gym clothes.  I notice when I find myself feeling uncomfortable.

But I also notice when I am surprised by a bit of happiness (not to imply I am not happy most of the time – I mean that moment when something happens and you realize you like that particular thing and maybe you had missed it!)  Like yesterday, walking into the gym, I passed a woman walking out.  And we did the very American smile at a stranger.  And I liked it!  And chatting with servers in restaurants – much more open and relaxed.  And being able to turn to a stranger in a store or on the sidewalk or in the bank and make a general observation and have a small discussion.

YET.  Even as I describe the French to my friends as more reserved than Americans, little memories wiggle out of a corner of my brain and say – wait, what about that lady at the bus stop, and those 4 ladies in the bus?  And more…  And I now think, maybe they are more reserved with strangers who are not French?  I looked and acted more and more Parisienne as the months passed.  And now I realize when they started those conversations, it was ME who was reserved – because I was uncomfortable with my French skills.

In January I got my visa from the lovely ladies at the French consulate in San Francisco.  Easy process now. Discovered that United has finally made it simple to book award travel so I will be flying from Sac to SFO to CDG.  Different from my usual Delta route, but free.  Free is a good thing.

Besides the Washington and Visalia trips, I spent a week in Mill Valley north of SF for an Enneagram class.  It was to add to my coaching toolkit.  A very intriguing and interesting four days.  I am toying with the idea of attending the International Enneagram conference in Cape Town in October.  Same time zone as Paris and you fly through Dubai.    Something to consider.

Now to making my list of things to do before returning – notify credit cards, buy euros, have numerous going away lunches and dinners (I think no one believed I would stay away so long – we didn’t have such celebrations last year.  But I like it!)