Afterword

Just before the end of last year, I wrote what was supposed to be “the last chapter” of je parle américain as you know it, because I planned to transform the blog into something entirely new. As it turns out, I haven’t made any progress with that, so je parle américain has been quiet of late, just “sitting on the shelf” collecting dust — to stay with the literary theme. Sometimes, though, events transpire that simply demand you pick up the pen again — or return to the keyboard as the case may be — and actually finish the story …

Afterword Continue reading Afterword

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No, I’m not the professor.

Rodney Dangerfield, in Back to School

Today, I went back to school.

“Wait a minute. You’re still taking French classes?” you’re surely asking in utter disbelief. “Shouldn’t you be fluent by now?” Well, no and yes … kind of. I’m done learning French. I’m not fluent, but there are only so many times you can take the same course over and over to “ameliorate your competence” before you get the side-eye. Now, I’m going to Université Paris Descartes to earn my licence. “Licence? What’s that? It sounds like either (1) what you need to drive in France or (2) what you need to practice law there.” Well, no, it’s neither that mundane nor that prestigious. It’s a bachelor’s degree …

“What?! A bachelor’s degree?!” Continue reading No, I’m not the professor.

Goin’ to the chapel … the city hall … a meadow?

It’s been a big weekend for civil rights here in France. If you’ve followed our news lately, you’re certainly familiar with the movement known as “Mariage pour tous” (“Marriage for All”). It’s the popular name for a legislative initiative to open marriage to same-sex couples and extend adoption rights to us. After months of vigorous debate and sometimes violent opposition, it was adopted this spring by the National Assembly and the Senate. Opponents immediately challenged the law’s constitutionality before the French Constitutional Council — the equivalent of the Supreme Court in the United States — and we waited for the ruling with a mix of hope and anxiety. Continue reading Goin’ to the chapel … the city hall … a meadow?

Love knows no boundaries.

The moment is finally here. This week, the French National Assembly started debate on proposed legislation that would, among other things, finally extend marriage and adoption rights to same-sex couples. That’s why another demonstration for equality was organized for Sunday afternoon, in the wake of January 13’s demonstration against it. Continue reading Love knows no boundaries.

You Can’t Go Home Again

The title of Thomas Wolfe’s novel You Can’t Go Home Again has become an expression — better known than the novel itself — to describe nostalgia for a bygone lifestyle after moving on to something else … something “bigger” … something “better.” I first left my little hometown of Bishopville many years ago, first to go to a residential high school not too far away, then to college three hours away, then to grad school six hours away, and then to work in DC seven hours away. I came out of the closet, I went back to law school, I became a “big city lawyer” in DC, I met a Frenchman and married him, and then I pulled up stakes and went off to lead a bohemian life in Paris. Even after all of that, I still wonder how true that expression is —

Can I really not go home again?

Continue reading You Can’t Go Home Again

Marchons, marchons

Sunday, December 16 was a big day in the streets of Paris.
It was the day of …

La Manifestation pour l’Égalité
The March for Equality

© 2012 Agissons pour l'égalité
© 2012 Agissons pour l’égalité

About a month ago, I posted an article here about the current debate in France over marriage equality and other family rights for LGBT persons. The government of President François Hollande had just announced a proposed law that would open civil marriage to same-sex couples, and the reaction was quick and malicious. Less than two weeks after the announcement, the opposition took to the streets in Paris and other French cities and — spouting blatant lies and disgusting innuendo about people like me — made their minority view very much heard. The demonstration in Paris even turned physically violent in the face of counter-protest. It was enough to sadden us and anger us … but it was also enough to motivate us to take to the streets ourselves on Sunday afternoon to make our voices heard. Continue reading Marchons, marchons

Perpetual Student

If you know me well, you know that I’ve spent a heck of a lot of time learning things that I haven’t necessarily parlayed into gainful employment. I graduated from a high school specializing in science and math, but I didn’t become a scientist or a mathematician. Then I went off to college to study architecture, but didn’t become an architect. In fact, I changed my major to political science, but I didn’t become a political scientist either — even after following up with a degree in foreign affairs. Instead, I ended up working as the marketing director for — of all things — a professional society of pension actuaries! I guess the only time I’ve actually put all that book-learnin’ to practical use was after law school when I became a lawyer for seven years. Thank goodness for that, too, because my savings from that time in my life helped me move to France without a job and start a new chapter here as … <drumroll> …

a student.

This time, for obvious reasons, I became a student of French. After all, when I moved to France in 2010, I only remembered a smattering of the French I’d studied two decades earlier in high school. Initially, I anticipated a year of French courses and then, of course, I’d be gainfully employed in France doing … something. It hasn’t quite worked out that way, though. I even got certified to teach English back in March, but I’m still looking for what I’ve started to describe as “the ever-elusive teaching gig.” As a non-EU citizen, I need to find an employer who’s willing to sponsor me for a work visa, but no one wants to jump through the hoops of French bureaucracy when a qualified EU citizen can do the job just as well. Another option is to become an independent contractor, but that involves a complicated process that isn’t guaranteed a positive resolution. I’m keeping all options on the table, though. In any case, don’t worry about me too much. I do have a few irons in the fire at the moment, so keep your fingers crossed. Continue reading Perpetual Student

Every Beginning is Only a Sequel

That’s what 130 pounds of luggage looks like. © 2012 Samuel Michael Bell, all rights reserved

Two years ago today, I left the United States with 130 pounds of stuff packed into 3 bags and a one-way ticket to the next chapter of my life.

Sixteen months earlier, I had met a guy in a Paris bar who would end up changing my life forever. I had just left my job as a lawyer in DC, thinking my life was going to go in a certain direction … but then, during a week-long vacation in Paris, I crossed paths with Michel. It was a romantic story worthy of a Hollywood screenplay, and it very quickly set in motion a complete reassessment of my future plans. By the time I left Washington for good on August 15, 2010, I had fallen in love, I had gotten engaged, I had applied to a French language program in Paris, I had gotten a one-year student visa from the French Embassy, I had gotten married, and I had said goodbye to my closest friends in Washington, not sure when or if I’d ever come back there to live.

During the last two years, I’ve lived a life completely different than the one I led before. Instead of living in a 1,100-square-foot apartment in Adams Morgan with the most adorable French bulldog on the planet, I now live in a 205-square-foot studio in La Courneuve with two very furry cats. Instead of working for a prestigious law firm doing securities regulatory work, I now write a blog, I search for that elusive English-teaching position, and I go to school to improve my French. My daily life has changed dramatically … Continue reading Every Beginning is Only a Sequel

How I spent three days of my Christmas vacation with a 14-foot U-Haul truck

Once again, dear readers, I’ve waited far too long since my last post. Then again, a lot has happened since Christmas Day. I’ll fill you in in installments, though, so that you’re not overwhelmed. Here’s your first one:

How I spent three days of my Christmas vacation with a 14-foot U-Haul truck

You may or may not know that I still own an apartment in Washington, DC, where I lived for 8 years before moving to Paris in 2010. Since I haven’t really worked since 2009, maintaining a mortgage on that piece of prime real estate no longer made any sense and I put it on the market a few months ago. (Incidentally, if you’re looking for a beautiful, 1100-sq.-ft., 1927-build, Beaux-Arts apartment in Adams Morgan, send me a message and I’ll put you in touch with my broker!) What that decision meant was that I needed to move a LOT of furniture and personal effects out of the place, so Michel and I planned a three-day excursion to DC right after Christmas to load up what was left of my stuff and move it back to my parents’ place in South Carolina. That couldn’t possibly be TOO difficult, right?

My Old Place
My Old Place

Continue reading How I spent three days of my Christmas vacation with a 14-foot U-Haul truck

Jean Reno, apples & pears, and my French husband

Photo: US Airways 787 © 2012 Samuel Michael Bell, all rights reserved

It was the first time that my husband and I had traveled across the Atlantic together: US Airways 787 from Paris-Charles de Gaulle to Charlotte Douglas International on Saturday. Michel has visited me in the United States before, of course: the first time was in December 2009 to meet my friends and family, and the second time was in July 2010, when we got married before my departure for France. But Saturday was a particularly interesting travel day: Jean Reno and a jackass immigrant officer at CDG, an obnoxious flight attendant with an apple and a pear, and a surprisingly warm welcome at immigration control in Charlotte. Continue reading Jean Reno, apples & pears, and my French husband