My latest contribution to MyFrenchLife, about how shoppin’ ain’t easy, is up today! You can read it here.
This post marks the first in a series of new posts I’ll be publishing. The series is aimed at highlighting my favorite photos taken in the cities I’ve traveled to, and I will have a lot more cities to edit and add! I have added a tab to my (newly redesigned!) home page, called Cities: in Photos to make finding these posts easier if you ever want to go back and check them out.
To kick off my new photo-sharing project, I hope you enjoy this collection of images taken during my amazing trip to Prague in February of this year.
I’ve heard about people relocating to other countries and completely reinventing themselves. Suddenly creativity is unleashed, intelligence overflows into the minds of previously simple citizens, and entirely new personas emerge. That’s what happens, right?
Not for me. Ten years after being voted “Most Accident Prone” in high school, I’m still breaking bones and accumulating injuries at an alarming rate.
I had dreams of becoming more gracieuse* during my stay in Paris, and in the city’s defense all the essential pieces of the puzzle are here: a charming locale, winters devoid of ice and snow, and a slower-paced culture. However, the pieces to a puzzle looking something like disaster are also present: cobblestone sidewalks, bicycles for rent every few blocks, and the strong urge to wear heels while in the fashion capital of the world (higher alcohol content in the beer doesn’t help, either). Alas, since moving to France, I have broken/injured a finger and a toe, fallen halfway down a flight of stairs and acquired several assorted inglorious battle wounds from my long-fought war with numerous enemies, known to Interpol as the terrorist organization Les Meubles.**
Image credit: explodingdog.com
But perhaps I’m looking at this all wrong… For someone who literally thinks to myself “Don’t fall, don’t fall, don’t fall” every time I descend stairs in heels (which is multiple times a day), and who sees every “Attention!”*** sign as a serious threat to my physical health, I have been relatively unscathed as I sprint to the metro after reaching the bottom of said stairs or ride a rented bicycle across one of the most congested cities in Europe. Really, Paris is like a beautiful-yet-poisonous urban jungle filled with deadly ninjas and I’m just a girl trying to look cute while conquering this metropolitan maze and kicking their little ninja asses.
Image credit Uma Thurman: FRANCO ORIGLIA/GETTY IMAGES
I am optimistic, though, and I like to think that maybe it’s not too late for me. Heck, 28 years of being a klutz doesn’t have to be an indicator of what’s to come, right?! My birthday is around the corner, and maybe the start of my 29th year is also the beginning of a new, more graceful future (cough, cough)! But, to be on the safe side, I won’t hold my breath. With my luck I’d pass out and break something on the way down…
In one of my earlier posts, A New England Sports Fan Abroad, I wrote about what it was like to miss championship games because of my international antics. But after several Sundays spent at The Great Canadian–a Canadian bar (surprise!) that airs NFL games here in Paris–I can, thankfully, write about what it’s like to watch a game abroad.
One of the first things I thought about when I decided to accept the offer to work for my current company and make the move to Paris was how I would be able to watch my beloved New England Patriots every Sunday. When I lived in the States, I made a point to go to at least one home game every season (last year I upped it to two, in light of my imminent departure), and if I wasn’t at Gillette I was surely glued to a TV somewhere. I’ve definitely had to miss my fair share of games, though, and that wasn’t an occurrence I wished to become a regularity.
The 2011 season, however, was a whole different ball game–pun intended. Not only have I been traveling more (admittedly both for business and for pleasure), but I am of course living in a country where American football isn’t exactly the most popular sport around. If you ask the locals if they’re into football you’ll likely hear a resounding yes, but they’re certainly not talking about tossing the ol’ pigskin. And as if there weren’t enough obstacles to watching a sport in a country that predominantly couldn’t care less about it, I also have to deal with the six to nine hour time difference for watching games taking place in the US–arguably the most difficult element to work around.
Fortunately for me, I was referred to TGC by a fellow American expat and blogger, Michael (you can check out his blog here), and his recommendation couldn’t have been better. Not only have I been able to watch several games during the regular season, but this past weekend I was able to watch the game that turned out to be our first playoff victory since January 20, 2008. This is particularly amazing considering that the game began at a staggering 2am Paris time Saturday night/Sunday morning. Thankfully, TGC came through and stayed open for the entire game, not-so-gently kicking us out at 5:30am. I was able to catch this crucial match-up, share drinks with friends, and make it home on the metro just before the sun came up.
Just for fun, here are some pictures of myself and some friends during the course of the season at our favorite American football hangout:
It’s been a great season so far, but I’m looking forward to what comes next as the Patriots compete against Baltimore for the AFC Championship title! And thank you, TGC, for giving me a little piece of home every Sunday. Now for next week: Let’s kick some Baltimore butt, boys!
For me, the “holiday season” has always consisted of three important holidays: Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve/Day. 2011 marked an interesting year for me, in which I spent these very special holidays in very different locations.
Of course there’s no where in the world to celebrate American Thanksgiving than in the United States, so that’s where I went! This trip was in conjunction with the surprise 50th birthday party we threw for my dad (which you can read about here), and my 10 year high school reunion. Take a look at our Thanksgiving table as we prepared for the big feast:
For Christmas, Santa brought family to me and delivered my Father on Christmas Eve! We spent 4 days walking all around Paris (and I mean ALL around), and I acted as a poor excuse for a tour guide to my guest, who was also a first-time visitor to The City of Lights.
And lastly, to ring in the New Year, my wonderful Frog Prince invited me to join him and his friends in beautiful Cadaqués, Spain — about an hour north of Barcelona. The sites were beautiful, the running was difficult (so much wind!), and the company was great. How could I ask for more?
Hoping everyone had a great holiday season and is having an equally excellent start to the new year… as for me, I’ve got big plans for 2012. Watch out, world! 😉
You know what I hate? Encountering obnoxious Americans when I’m traveling and living abroad. Obnoxious anyone, for that matter.
You know what I hate even more? Encountering Americans who are traveling and living abroad slamming other Americans.
It’s true that at one point I was a bit reluctant to associate myself with Americans while traveling. I’m sure a lot of you have heard the advice “Tell everyone you’re Canadian when you travel” due to the seemingly overwhelming unpopularity of Americans when visiting countries other than their own. I’ve never fibbed about my nationality, but there have certainly been times when I’ve cringed at the stories I’ve heard about loud Americans in bars, rude Americans in restaurants, or Americans asking some really ridiculous questions (like, “Do French people use toilet paper?” COME ON PEOPLE!).
However, imagine if, in the history of the world, every single person who was ever something unpopular turned on their own kind and shunned who they are. What exactly would our global society look like if every person who had stood up to someone saying that their race/ethnicity/religion/nationality wasn’t worth defending simply agreed with whatever negativity surrounded them at the time and faded away?
So to all of my fellow Americans who are living or traveling abroad, here’s an idea: if you find yourself constantly annoyed by Americans, instead of jumping to insult them, why not try leading by example? Be the better tourist/expat, and change the opinion people have of us. Change can start with one person, so maybe it’s time for each of us to be that person. And you never know, maybe in a few years the American-abroad reputation will be so much improved that Canadians will be wearing stars and stripes on their backpacks the next time they take a Euro-trip. 🙂
So the latest leg on my endless itinerary has taken me to Morocco to spend four days with colleagues in the country’s beautiful capital. Though, as is often the case, I didn’t get to spend as much time as I would have liked exploring the city, I did get to see some amazing things, and snapped a few photos on the way. For your viewing pleasure:
Marrakech was definitely unlike any other place I’ve traveled to so far. The city was always bustling, and people seemed to overflow into the streets. The energy was about as fierce as the selling techniques found in the souk (the largest “traditional” market in Morocco), and the food was as spicy as the colors were bright. My favorite item to consume? Moroccan orange juice. As one who doesn’t typically enjoy my oj pulpy, I can tell you that even with a little texture on my tongue, this stuff was mind-blowing.
We stayed in a riad located in the Medina, and if you ever get a chance to say in Marrakech, definitely check out Riad Les Trois Palmiers. Lodging was incredible, staff was extremely accommodating, and the inside of this building is just as beautiful as the sites you’ll see when you explore this city. And when you go, tell Patrick that Nikki from Paris by way of the US says hello. 🙂
- French rugby fans are alllllllllllllmost as crazy as American football fans. Almost.
- If I can eat nachos, I will.
- I love throwing surprise birthday parties. Even if, on the following day, my apartment looks like Hurricane Irene was on the guest list.
- When in Europe, it’s important to know the difference between a messy shirt and a Messi shirt.
- It’s time for me to act like the confident, young (I can still say young, right?!) woman that I am.
- I no longer find it amusing when French people tell me to “get a French boyfriend” as a solution to my language-learning woes.
- A PS3 may have been one of the best investments I made in 2011.
- At the moment, having a French name is a relatively large disadvantage (Living in France + French name = people assuming you speak French).
- I will now start noticing Frog Prince images and references everywhere I go.
- I should not challenge men to drinking contests (unless tequila is involved?).
- I love Indian food way more than I initially realized.
- Sometimes all you need to feel refreshed is a haircut. A manicure doesn’t hurt either.
- Travel within Birmingham, UK requires a rental car. Or at least a lot of cash for taxis.
- It’s hard to write good blog posts when I’m on the road.
- It takes longer and longer for my body to recover after getting sick.
- I tend to complicate things.
- Oysters? Yes, please.
- For some reason, listening to music in only one ear gives me a headache.
- The beers in Munich are huge.
- When people start asking me about my dog, I can’t stop talking about her. ❤
- Dramamine is the best way to ensure sleep on a long flight.
- Letting go of grudges is much better than holding onto them.
- I have awesome friends (Okay, I definitely already knew this. But I was certainly reminded recently!).
- Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. Even if I am vegetarian.
- I like red nail polish.
Last night I attended a soiree organized by an online magazine dedicated to building a community of people who have some connection to France/the French in their lives (more to come on this in a future post).
In addition to meeting some really cool Australians, Americans and French people who are currently living in Paris, I got something really amazing out of this little shindig: Encouragement.
About to reach the six-month-mark of living here in Paris and still having only basic (though improving!) French, I often get down on myself for not having made more progress. I even wrote about it, here. And although I would argue that, among all the places in France to live, Paris is the easiest place to get by if you have only an elementary understanding of French, I expected more from myself on the language front by now.
When I arrived at last night’s event, I was unsure if I’d even be able to communicate with anyone, and was nervous that people would look down their noses at me for being a French resident who still speaks almost entirely in English. But on the contrary, I was met with a barrage of understanding and motivation! A lot of these people had come to France with little to no French training, and are now either speaking fluently or enough to communicate well in nearly every situation. And the kicker? It took them all about a year-and-a-half to get there.
“Six months?!” One woman said. “You’ve got to give yourself more time. There’s no way you could expect to be speaking a lot of French in only six months.”
“At around six months I thought I was speaking great French because I didn’t know it well enough to know the mistakes I was making. At one year I actually was more frustrated because I could hear my mistakes. Eventually you just have to stop caring and stop feeling embarrassed and it gets easier.”
I woke up this morning with a renewed sense of determination to tackle this language, and I’m grateful for the words of wisdom these fellow expats were able to share. Finding out that I’m not failing as hard as I thought I was: not a bad way to spend a Wednesday evening, eh? 🙂
As the resident native English speaker at my office, I regularly have conversations like this one:
“Do I say ‘lit?’ Or is it ‘litten?'”
“Um. Excuse me?”
“You know. Is ‘lit’ an irregular verb?”
“What are you trying to say? What’s the sentence you want to form?”
“No. I just want to know if it’s irregular.”
“It’s not litten. It’s lit.”
Though I have, as almost all American students have at one point or another in their high school careers, studied grammar–and currently think myself to be an excellent (though not perfect) user of it–I no longer recall exactly which verbs are irregular and which are regular. Do I use verbs correctly? Of course! But can I list for you even five irregular verbs in the English language without consulting my trusty friend Google or beginning to conjugate a lengthy list of verbs in my mind? No.
Because English is my mother tongue (Oh no! Starting a sentence with ‘because’ is a huge grammatical no-no! But don’t worry, I’m finishing the sentence with an independent clause. Ahh! Starting a sentence with ‘but’ is a definite no-no! But it’s okay, seeing as how this is an informal blog, and none of you are here to actually read about English grammar.), these rules are no longer rules to me. I live and abide by them. They are burned into the depths of my mind. Sort of like the rule that says you’re not supposed to steal. I don’t think about it. I just don’t steal. So now my knowledge of the ins and outs of English is being tested and I must say… Mrs. Smith probably wouldn’t be very proud.
And I’m only telling you about the verbal interrogations I receive.
On the flip-side, I look forward to the days when I will be asking for the past participle form of some seldom-used French verb to my friends. Revenge is best served verbally, no? 🙂