525,600 minutes

Every August 15, a big anniversary rolls around.

August 15, 2010 was the day I left the US with big dreams, 130 pounds of luggage, and a one-way ticket to Charles de Gaulle. The days leading up to the anniversary are always full of reflection and nostalgia for me. I spend a lot of time looking back at what I’ve accomplished — or failed to accomplish — but I also look ahead to what the new year might bring my way. It’s a bit like New Year’s in mid-summer.

Two years ago, on my first anniversary as an expat in France, I recounted the beautiful story of what led me to this country in the first place (“The Patience of a Butterfly“). Last year, as my second anniversary rolled around, I waxed rather philosophical about it all, writing about change as the very essence of life (“Every Beginning is Only a Sequel“). This year, I’m doing something quite a bit different. You see, I have a Facebook tradition every August 15: I start a new photo album into which I will post scores of photos of my life during the upcoming year. A few days ago, in preparation for “Ma vie à Paris: la quatrième année,” I was scrolling through last year’s album, and I was reminded of what a monumental year it’s been: chock full of the usual stresses of expat life, of course, but also charged with exciting developments that promise good things to come. This August 15, then, I’ve decided to share with you a little photographic montage of the last 525,600 minutes of my life as an expat — the mundane and the exciting, the frustrating and the promising, even the delicious and the inebriating … and the sentimental, of course. So … how do you measure a year in the life?

Note: There are ten photo galleries in this article. You can see all the photos without opening individual galleries, but opening them will allow you to view the photos in a larger format. To open a gallery, simply click on one of the photos. You will then be able then scroll through all the photos in that gallery. You will then need to close it to move on the rest of the article and view other galleries. You can close a gallery by clicking on the “x” in the upper left corner of the gallery screen.

I was still a student.

Thankfully, the French government was still onboard with renewing my student visa while I “perfected” my French language skills:

And I was still banging my head against the wall …

thanks to the French immigration system. Having to show up at the prefecture four times in seven months was no picnic, but I finally ended up with a residency permit good for four months longer than expected. That pushed my next visit to the prefecture a little farther down the calendar. As they say, “every dark cloud …”

Speaking of immigration …

it was a big year for LGBT equality in France, and that will have big implications for my life here. Of course, we did our part by demonstrating for equality — not once, but twice:

And we celebrated …

a re-election in America, the adoption of marriage equality and adoption rights in France, and the “end” of DOMA:

You’ve seen the champagne and chocolate …

but there was a lot of other good food this year, too. It wasn’t just French and American cuisine, either, but other cuisines imported from around the world:

And there was alcohol …

much of it pink:

There were cultural experiences …

And little trips to the countryside …

once to our friends’ place in Burgundy, and a few times back home to South Carolina.

Here on French soil, I reconnected …

with my own history:

And with old friends from back home …

one of whom I hadn’t seen in decades:

There were several others who didn’t make it into any photos. Maybe next year?

Of course, I made new friends this year, too:

Some of my classmates from Paris 3 celebrating the end of the school year in the most Parisian of fashions

So … how do you measure a year in the life?
In daylights, in sunsets, in midnights
In cups of coffee
In inches, in miles, in laughter, in strife.
And in love … seasons of love.

© 2013 Samuel Michael Bell, all rights reserved

14 thoughts on “525,600 minutes

  1. What a lovely summary! You have a great way of looking at the little things, and the food photos made me hungry… A year consists of so many moments and memories. I am happy to have shared some of them with you!

  2. J’ai bien aimé toutes tes photos et le résumé de tes 3 premières années en France. Et le 15 Août est férié donc pas de problème pour se souvenir de ton anniversaire. Est-ce que tu parles Français comme un Parisien maintenant ?

    1. J’ai toujours mon accent américain — si charmant ! — et je me trompe très souvent de genre ou parfois de vocabulaire, mais j’ai enfin réussi à laisser tomber le “ne” en négation, ajouter un “quoi” à la fin d’une phrase, et remplacer “je ne sais pas” avec “chehpah.” 🙂

  3. Samuel,

    I just love your blog. Since I’ve been back from Paris three weeks ago, you have helped keep my memories alive for all the beauty and freedom Paris is and for all the pictures I though myself too tired to take. Now I find myself checking your blog at the office daily just to make sure you’re doing something wonderful in a wonderful city. Keep the posts coming!!!

    1. Thanks so much! I’m so glad you like the blog — especially this post. Oh the pressure to keep writing! I hope I won’t let you down. I foresee a slight dry spell in August. After all, it IS the month when EVERYONE leaves! Stay tuned, though, because something’s always in the pipeline. You can subscribe to get email updates as well on this page: https://jeparleamericain.com/2011/06/02/about-je-parle-americain/ (The subscription box should be to the right just at below the introduction.)

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