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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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? Continue reading 525,600 minutes

franecdote 1685 : I Won’t Tolerate It

Detail from a 1701 portrait of Louis XIV by Hyacinthe Rigaud

It’s time for yet another “franecdote” — an interesting fact or story from “THAT year in French history“ where “THAT year” is this year minus the number of Facebook fans je parle américain has every Thursday.

Screen Shot 2013-07-07 at 11.07.00 PM

Today’s franecdote is from July 11, when je parle américain had 328 Facebook fans. So …

The year 2013 — 328 fans = 1685, and the franecdote is …

<drumroll>

The Edict of Fontainebleau Continue reading franecdote 1685 : I Won’t Tolerate It

We Are the World

Lire en français.

Yesterday morning, I woke up early, got myself ready, and went off to my last French class ever. It was the culmination of five semesters of studying French — as Moses once put it — as “a stranger in a strange land.” It’s been a long road, sometimes frustrating, sometimes nerve-wracking, but always fulfilling. I’ve learned a lot these last few years. I often joke that even after four years of French in high school, I could barely string together enough French to order dinner when I first met Michel. Now, I’m now somewhere between a C1 and C2 level of competence, depending on which skills you’re measuring. Grammar is definitely my strong point: on the TCF I took in February, I got a perfect score! I may not be able to speak French that well off the cuff, and I might still have a very noticeable (but hopefully still charming) American accent, but if you put a French sentence in front of me, I can diagram that thing like a pro! That’s probably a good thing, because my next academic endeavor looks like a foray into the world of linguistics at Université Paris Descartes (Paris V).

But I’ve gained a lot more than a second language. Continue reading We Are the World

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.

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

To Be Born Somewhere

Photo: © 2011 Michel Denis Pouradier, all rights reserved

Following on my blog post yesterday about my visit to the prefecture in Bobigny, I wanted to share a slideshow of photos taken during that visit by my husband, Michel. It captures the very human side of what I approached from a more humorous perspective in my post. The photos are poignantly evocative of the truth that we are all part of the same family, no matter where we were born. Michel quotes a well-known French song in his blog post, which I think beautifully encapsulates the story told by these images:

Continue reading To Be Born Somewhere

A Bitter-sweet Exile

A friend recently posted an article on Facebook about former Manhattanites living in my former hometown of Washington, D.C. Manhattanites exiled to Washington search for fellow sufferers is a humorous piece in the Washington Post‘s lifestyle section reporting on the “stranger in a strange land” lamentations of the members of a group called the Fellowship of Unassimilated Manhattan Exiles. It’s pretty funny because these folks are self-styled “exiles,” as if they had been banished from Manhattan to the hinterlands. And it’s even more entertaining because the article is rife with the stereotypical over-inflated New York ego: Continue reading A Bitter-sweet Exile