New beginnings

Just read a quote from Lao Tzu:

New beginnings are often disguised as painful endings.

Appropriate.  I just reserved my flight back to Sacramento.  My housesitting ends on April 28.  I found a hotel for a reasonable price in a good area that is easily accessible to what I want to see and do before flying back on April 30.  It makes no sense to stay longer even if my visa could allow that.  First, before May 15, I’d have to do the usual leave the Schengen area which involves transportation and hotel expenses.  And then I’d have to find a new apartment.

All the while thinking that I am feeling a bit done with Paris.

Horreurs! 

How can one be done with Paris?  I still love it.  But my goals have been met.  You’ve read my blogs wherein I say I own Paris.  I do.  And I speak halfway decent French.

Back to my existentialist crisis.  For four years I had purpose – it was Paris.  It was French.  And it was good.  No, great. Fabulous.  Goals met.  Now what?  I could indeed stay here and start the path to citizenship.  Although if so, I blew it by not doing the yearlong visa several years ago.  You must live here 5 years to start the process.  Do I want to be a French citizen?  In many ways, yes.  I do.  But then, I think of the complications – the French bureaucracy which would drive me insane.  The stories I hear from others.  The complications of FACTA… or something with initials something like that.  The tax act that makes life miserable for many expats.  The French banks that as a result don’t want anything to do with you if you are an American.  Let alone the French banks that put very low maximums on how much you can take out of your personal checking account per month no matter how much money you have in there.  Huh?  The French laws that determine who inherits your money.  (No, not as simple as having a will. Of course not, it’s France.)

Other than Eastern Europe, Norway is the sole country on my list left to visit in Europe.  I almost went this year but it got far too complicated.  So maybe I will pick a new continent to explore.  Exploration gets a bit more complex as a single and older woman traveling alone.  Hey.  I went to Morocco by myself!  Not on a tour!  But still, one has to be aware.  I haven’t had any hesitations traveling in Europe.  Now if I select South America as the next destination, maybe some concerns.  Yet even as I write that, I figure that after one country in SA, I’ll be fine. Still to be explored and determined.  And just the act of writing “explored” made me feel good.  I love to plan.  Even more, I love to change plans.

<<Oh. I just recalled my one visit to Mexico when I was a college student with two other gals and a guy.  We decided to save money and camp out south of Tijuana.  We were awakened in the middle of the night to 4 guys, probably between 17 and 23 who were rocking the van we were sleeping in and banging on sides of the van.  Lost money, wallets, and very fortunately, nothing else.  I did wrestle with one guy over the car keys and actually got a minor cut on my hand.  Yes.  His knife.  They let the air out of the tires and left us alone; we eventually drove back to a beach camp where we got air and paid to sleep safely.  Hmmm.  Maybe that colors my memory some.>>

But nothing has been as satisfying as living and thriving in Paris using my language skills effectively.  At this age, I am not taking up Spanish or Portuguese.

So other options… my consulting business.  My partner is eager to start finding more clients and gigs.  Maybe I will start to write some speeches for Rotaries and the like:  My years In Paris.  Maybe the blogs become a book?  That seems just too much hard work.  I know my personality, I am always facing forward.  To go back and sift through and edit blogs sounds wearying.

We interrupt this blog for a special request: But, you dear reader, you can help me out!  Do you recall any particular story or stories from my blogs over the last four years that amuse you, define my time in Paris, shed light on the cultural differences, or just stand out?  Let me know please. You can email me directly at moi@44zip.com or through Word Press by making a comment.  Either way, I’ll get your message.  I’d really appreciate this.  It would be the basis for any speeches I prepare.  Now back to the regularly scheduled blog.

So is this a painful ending?  My first reaction was yes.  But as I compose this blog, I think it’s at the most bittersweet, not painful.  Now, the packing will be painful.  As all long term readers know – packing 9 months of my life is not my favorite task.

I have some 33 days left.  They will be full.  a trip to the Netherlands that includes a Todd Rundgren concert in Amsterdam!  Multiple expos to visit.  Day trips.  And, of course, Tango lessons will continue.

Au revoir

<This was written on January 10 and 11 – my last evening in Paris and during the day of my journey back.  I have been back in the States for a while but haven’t found time for blogging until today and I discovered this blog finished but not posted.  Enjoy.>

As I rode my last metro and bus this evening, I was looking at all my regular landmarks with a careful eye, wondering what will be different when I come back.  It’s what happened in the states in the 9 months I am gone – I return and see huge new buildings replacing small old ones that I can’t even remember very well.

And this time I don’t know when I will be back.  It truly feels like a new stage, new chapter in my life. Full of possibilities…

My last vacuuming of the apartment.  Stripping the bed this morning for my landlady.  Looking at how I arranged my stuff for the plane.   And knowing I will immediately forget.

The taxi was on time actually early.  But I was in the other room and didn’t hear the message ding.  We left at 720 not 715 but still made good time to the airport.  By 8.  Checked my bags by 815.  Paid for the extra bag by 820.  In the security line by 825.  And through there and waiting now in the comfy chairs by the shops at 9.  Boarding starts at 952.  Enough time to blog a bit and then find the toilettes and stand in line again.  That’s travelling these days, isn’t it?  Standing in line…. Endless lines.  In Europe you don’t have to take your shoes off through security.  Every little bit helps.

Weird.  No plans to return.  Open ended.  I know I will be back.  But when.  So I will do the things I know of – remodel my bathroom at home – help my sister sell her house, toss and sell excess stuff in my house.  Which is funny because I am bringing home excess stuff!!!  But some are gifts.  Oh well,  decorations.

While I felt like I was done with lines, I was  not.  I went through Police Frontiere here and got my passport stamped.  But I have to go through that in Salt Lake City for the US authorities.  I will see how easy Global Entry is this time.  Last year it was a snap.  Just put my passport down on the reader and stared in the camera and good to go.  Then I collect my bags and transfer them to Delta for the flight to Sac.  And once again go through security.  This time I hope to remember.  Every other year, after the 11 hour flight, I totally forget and am surprised I have to find my electronics again.  One Laptop, one Ipad, 3 Iphones, one Ipod (yes!) and my kindle.  AND take my shoes off once on US soil.

I had a half bottle of water in a cool small bottle – fortunately I remembered to drink it in the security line so I could take it through.  I then just ask the flight attendants to fill it for me on the flight.

In Paris I got up at 6 am after what I thought was a fitful night – well, I thought I woke often but went back to sleep.  My Fitbit Alta says I got 6 hours and 5 minutes of sleep so I will trust in that and feel rested.  I will arrive in Sac at 3am Paris time tomorrow.  So a long 21 hour day ahead of me.  And of course, flying west you are in the daylight and who sleeps?  Not me.  I have the Fire and the Fury to read.  Or watch movies.  The options these days are numerous.  Time to catch up on the movies I have missed.

Will you keep reading this blog I wonder?  Can it morph into Infinite Paris in Sacramento?  Or just the US?  In a way I think it can.  Because Paris will always be part of me now.  I know the city like the back of my hand.  Rarely do I  get stopped for a question that I cannot answer.

I have never been so organized for a return trip before.  I even made some breakfast today.  And packed some GORP  (Gobs of rotten peanuts for those of you who are not hikers).  So no need to visit any shops except to spend the coins in my pocket.  But then it’s another thing to have to carry home.

Counting Down

<A very delayed post!  I am back in the States and life has kept me from blogging.  So I sat down this afternoon to write and discovered two posts that had not yet made it to the internet.  Enjoy.  This was written around Jan 9, 2018.>

A week from today I leave.  Still packing.  Still mailing home a box.  Shipping a suitcase tomorrow with many concerns about the tags for it…

And sitting at the laptop figuring out values of things for the suitcases that go with me and the box that goes via la poste.  To make the drudgery palatable, I started listening to Amazon Music.  Cool.  Found the relaxation stations.  One station had too many words.  So I clicked on Brinkman whom I recall maybe plays the piano.  The first track was great.  Then the music  stopped.  Sometimes it does that.  I guess it gets to the end of the playlist.  Yet I kept hearing things.  Sort of staticky noises.  I had just had problems with my hearing aid but fixed it.  Was it going bad again?  I took it out, put it back, changed the volume.  Always that noise.  Then I looked at Amazon music to find something to drown it out.

Brinkman was playing indeed.  And the title was Rain and cicadas.  OK.  Let’s change that station right away.  Now, soothing music, no static or cicadas.

This morning I slept in too late to go to the d’Orsay during my private time.  So I headed off to the Louvre.

So many tourists!  Someone said the Louvre is always busy.  Well, yes.  But after the attacks in Nov 2015 things changed and the normal became less tourists.

That’s over and done with.  Restaurants crowded.  Shops packed.  I’ll go to the Orsay before I leave at 9 before it opens to the hordes.  As a member I can go in at 9.  Empty!  Wonderful!  All these great works of art to myself!

 

Heading for the Stable

(Written December 24) You all know about the “rental” horses that go out for the day and are a bit sluggish and seem fatigued.  Until the rider turns them back towards the barn.  Then they perk up and head home eagerly for their dinner.

Sort of but not quite.  I am now three weeks out.  California is in sight.  At the oddest times, I find myself thinking longingly of clothes dryers, dishwashers, or my stainless steel pots and pans.  The most frequent is the clothes dryer.  I am creative in finding ways to drape wet clothes about the apartment but oh for a dryer!

This year I have decided to take everything back home or store it with a friend.  A family member has medical problems – see previous blog – and I am not sure I will be back in April.  So better safe than sorry.  But that creates an automatic headache.  Stuffing nine months of living into two suitcases?  No.  It’s more like 18 months since I left things from last time – so I gave in and bought another suitcase.  It holds 120L of stuff.  A test run showed that the clothes I just dropped in without good packing were only 33 pounds –  my max is  50.  Of course, the third suitcase will cost me $200.  Better than shipping.

And I am also shipping – but by La Poste and US Mail.  I can send back “American Goods Returning” with no duty implications.  Otherwise, I can only send $200 worth of goods to myself on any one day and $100 in gifts on any one day.  Yup.  It gets complicated.

So my apartment is a mess.  Both literally and figuratively.  Or maybe that’s not right.  Maybe literally in two senses: not clean and everything scattered around.  Sacks full of things for shipping – I pack them in the sack so that I can weigh everything.  And sacks for packing in the suitcases – those are in the bedroom with the three suitcases.  And I haven’t dusted or vacuumed in several weeks.  (Remember the dust bunny blog?  They are back!)  I was too busy then I started the packing process and it seems too much work to clean around everything.  And I am only here 3 more weeks… I can do the final cleaning at the same time!  Well, we’ll see.  I am not sure I will be able to stand so many dust bunnies…

Time of the year for classic videos.  I enjoyed the annual showing of White Christmas last night, with my “Chocolat Chaud Viennois” Hot chocolate with whipped cream!  Sometime soon I will also watch A Christmas Story.  And a French friend introduced me to a new old classic.  It’s called Dinner for One.  You can search it on You Tube.  It was made in 1963 for German TV in English starring a British comic and apparently it has become a holiday classic in – of all places – Norway!  I just watched this morning – short and hysterical!

The horror of the Berlin attack at their Marche has made its way into France.  Many more police and soldiers out and about.  They have really never gone away after last November, but now we are back to the same level as last Christmas.  And there are still repercussions – several marches in Paris did not open this year and Notre Dame does not have the annual Christmas Tree again this year.  I am happy I got a chance to see it in 2009.

I walk through the marches or down the sidewalks and window shop.  I see some beautiful things I would like to purchase but NO.  I have hit my duty limit.  You can bring back $800 to the US.  Anything over will cost you duty.  It’s not a lot.  Last year I declared $1,200.  And was ready to pay the approximately $23.07 dollars.  But after consulting the computer and his calculator for a long time, the customs agent simply waved me through.  $800 is a generous figure when you visit for 2 or 3 weeks.  It hampers your spending when you are here 9 months.  If I stayed here over a year as a “resident,” I would get a break and not have to declare everything.  But no.

 

Where is that? Je Suis Parisenne?

There are benefits to packing early.  Less stress and wondering – you know how much the bags weigh (under 50 pounds please!) and it’s another task to check off the list.

There are also downsides… Like forgetting if you packed something you need and combing through the apartment and finally opening the bag to search… and find it.

But I think the benefits outweigh the negatives.  I trial packed the carryon today.  That was more difficult because it will hold the electronics – and I use the electronics – like the laptop I am composing this on right now.  But I got a good enough idea and all is well.

I also discovered another four bottles of water to give away.  I had already given my friend a couple bottles yesterday when I went out to her house for Christmas dinner.  Oh la la.  Such a wonderful meal – an entrée of salad and avocado, followed by a mushroom dish, followed by fish and vegetables followed by a salad followed by a cheese plate followed by a buche de Noel. (Christmas cake).  Accompanied by champagne with the aperitifs of veggies, dip, and humus and salmon.  Then a delicious white wine.  Whew! A splendid Christmas!

Today, Boxing Day, I could have been out in Paris in the sun but instead I walked the 2 miles in the apartment again.  And I was resting up for the evening dinner.  I know it is the standard Parisien dinner time, but gosh 8 is just too late!

Albert and his wife treated me to a delicious meal.  Three entrees that were delicious and each a separate taste and a wonderful main course followed by Les Meriveilles… a candy chocolate concoction that was beyond scrumptious.  With champagne and a light red.

I had met Albert’s wife for lunch in May and it wasn’t too exciting.  She spoke far too quickly for me and I was very hesitant with my French.  We seemed to mutually agree to not meet any more.

But tonight!  It was the best Christmas going away present I could ever have had.  At the end of 2 and a half hours speaking French all three of us… a real conversation talking over each other… she told me how much I had changed since we met.  She thought I even looked different! (Well, I do have Michel… the French hairstylist!) And I was clearly mastering French and looked so happy and Parisienne!

Could it get better?  Well, ya.  Albert was kind enough to send me home in a cab – not any taxi, the service Le Cab, somewhat Uber like but better.  After 3 minutes of silence, we started to chat and I talked the whole 30 minute drive – with his continued compliments of my French.

Why am I leaving?

Oh yeah… if I don’t, I will get kicked out.  Almost overstaying my legal limit.

And now at almost one a.m., I am hyped up and sleep is doubtful.  Tomorrow I can sleep in.  It’s my last day in Paris for 3 months.  I have said au revoir to all the important places and a bientot to the important people (good bye and see you soon).  Tomorrow evening I am treating myself to a concert at Sainte Chapelle.  That’s a good send off.

Is the blog over?  I don’t think so… I think that transition back to the States will still give me fodder for thought.

A big MERCI A TOUS to my readers for accompanying me on this journey.  If anyone wants to comment on my journey, what was significant, how I may have changed, or anything, I’d love to hear.

A bientot!