This entry was inspired by a friend's facebook status about getting up extra early to take a spinning class. I used to go with C three or four times a week . . . it was hard, but FANTASTIC! But the French don't spin. At least not in Massy. So when I read her comment, I thought, wow, I really miss spinning. So I commented on her status and realized that I missed some other things from home too . . . and have decided to try to find 10 things I miss most. But I don't want to imply that I'm not enjoying what is here either, so to offset what I miss, I'm going to also list the 10 things I like most about being in France. I think I'll start with that one.
TOP 10 THINGS I LOVE MOST ABOUT LIVING HERE
1. Paris. The center of Paris is about a 45 minute ride on the RER from where I live in Massy (only 12km by car . . . that's not quite 6mi). Paris is BEAUTIFUL! Le Tour Eiffel, La Louvre, Le Sacre Coeur . . . Paris is FULL of history and culture, with lots of exhibits to visit and festivals to enjoy. J'adore Paris!
2. Easy (enough) Access to Europe. I have now been here just over four months, and I've already had the opportunity make quick visits to Italy, Germany, Belgium, and the UK. Between the European rail system and cheap airlines, Europe is at my fingertips.
3. Learning New Things. Not only am I learning a new language, I am learning lots of new things . . . like the sounds animals make in different countries (cows don't say "moo" everywhere you know) . . . and how to recharge a cell phone once the minutes I've paid for are used up . . . and how to read many different types of public transportation schedules . . . and how to host a real Swiss Fondue . . . and . . . and . . . and . . . and hopefully soon how to make real French macaroons!
4. La Cuisine Française. Okay, so I don't like everything the French eat . . . comme Escargot, and I confess I won't even try the raw oysters! But for the most part, I haven't had much I haven't liked. And there's no touching the bread and cheese! Mmmmmm.
5. My Schoolmates. I am really enjoying the people I go to classes with and live with. We come from all over the world (Colombia, the UK, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Germany, Norway, Serbia, Korea, Australia, New Zealand . . . and those from the US come from all over too: Alaska, Texas, California, Boston, Philly, New York, Florida, Minnesota, Tennessee, etc). And when we're done here, we're all spreading around the world too (most are either staying in Europe or heading to North and West Africa). I've come to know some really great people, and have made some life-long friends too.
6. Scarves. France is often associated with a few things: Le Tour Eiffel, les baggettes, and a man in a blue and white striped shirt with a mustache, cigarette, beret, and a red cravate. But scarves are right up there with the very Frenchness of wine and cheese! Walking down the street sans a scarf is like walking down the street without shoes . . . you just don't do that here!
7. Culture. L'opera, le cinéma, les arts, le ballet, la cuisine, la musique . . . France is full of culture! The French people enjoy going to public lectures and concerts and exhibits. The city of Paris is full of art and music! The architecture found throughout the cities and towns is exquisite. Bravo!
8. My Schedule. Before I moved to France my life was in a constant state of "go." Even my days "off" were tightly scheduled. I would catch up on phone correspondence when sitting in traffic on my commute home from work. Every night was full with meetings, Bible study, Community Group, etc. My life was packed full to the seams. But here . . . here I live two steps away from where my classroom is . . . and two blocks from the closest store . . . and a 10 minute walk to the train station (and 5 minutes to the really good boulangerie). Everyday I go to class, have a break for lunch, go back to class, and then go for a walk in the park, and walk to the store, and do some homework and have dinner with friends. One day a week I meet with my language helper for an hour. We have Wednesdays off . . . and the weekends too. While we work hard in school, I am LOVING this pace of life!
9. Social Awareness is a Cultural Value. While I am not a Socialist politically, I do think that personally it is right to be socially active. Helping the poor, standing up against human trafficing and the sex trade, supporting projects that provide food, clean water, and health care for those with limited access to the things we in the West take for granted. In general, this mindset is a cultural value here in France. And I appreciate that.
10. Skype. Okay, so it's not a "French" thing . . . but my time here would be leaps and bounds more difficult if I had to rely on letters or email solely. And with the webcam I can see the people I'm speaking with. Skype is a BEAUTIFUL thing!
(Are you there?? Is anyone still reading??? I've got 10 more to go!!!!!!)
TOP 10 THINGS I MISS ABOUT HOME
1. My People. This is not only inclusive of my family and friends . . . but my collegues at work, and the folks at church, and even the guy with the long hair (I think his name is Mike . . . or Tom . . . or something like that) who works at the register in Wawa at the corner of Greetree and Church Rd in Mt. Laurel. I think often we take for granted having people around us who know our back-stories and understand where we are coming from. Even just someone to share all those culture-specific things . . . like lines from Napoleon Dynamite or "You know that Seinfeld episode . . . ." or even knowing what Wawa is!! It's the little things sometimes . . . and really, I'm getting to know some people here on a deeper level, and so I've got a new circle forming (but none of them have even heard of Wawa).
2. My Car. I couldn't wait to be rid of my car when I left in August. I was so happy to be done with car insurrance and repairs. Public transportation was a dream come true . . . until I had one too many misadventures . . . they may be funny stories for you now!! Public transport here really is easy, but sometimes it's nice to just hop in your own car and get away . . . but on the days I miss my car, I try to remember how much I HATE traffic (and usually I'm cured!) woah . . . I was just typing number 10 and I realized that I haven't driven a car in over 4 months!! CRAZY!
3. Sunday Coffee. The year or so before I left the States, nearly every Sunday afternoon or evening, I would have a cup of coffee with my dear friend B.R. We would spend hours sipping and chatting . . . and on nice days we'd get the cup to-go and head to a nearby park. But B. recently came to visit and we actually to got to sit and catch up with a cup of coffee in a (very) busy shop in the basement of Le Louvre. And at least once a week, on a Wednesday or Saturday mid-morning, I sit with my partner-in-crime, S-P, or my multi-lingo-cultural S.G. and reflect on life and drink coffee. Different isn't always Wrong.
4. Burts Bees Wax. You can't get it here. And while zam-buk is almost as good, you can't get any of that either! (Thanks again, PC for bringing some with you . . . ma bouche thanks you too!)
5. Peanut Butter M&M's. (and Reese's too) Okay, so I've actually been able to ration the packets I've received in the mail this year . . . but it was always nice to know that if I ever wanted some the orange bag was easy to come across. (But you can find the Peanut ones here . . . infact, they seem to be more popular than the Regular ones.)
6. Craft Stores. I love craft stores. I walk in and feel inspired to let the creative juices flow. But here, there are no craft stores. There's a place, Zôdio, that is a cross between the Container Store and Kitchen Kapers and Bed Bath and Beyond and three aisles at Michael's. But no craft stores. Sad.
7. My Own Kitchen. I love to entertain. I love having dinner parties. While we still do lots of soirées and dinners together, it's just not the same. There's no KitchenAid and other people are always coming and going. We do have a BEAUTIFUL new salle à manger for the single students to use as a dining room . . . so for now, it works.
8. Payless. Shoes here are EXPENSIVE! Often beyond my buget. The right sole of my black flats that I wear nearly every day has started to rip off . . . but for now, ça marche, because I'm not ready to give in to French shoe prices.
9. Homemade Used Car Lot Commercials. Just kidding!
10. Cinnamon Flavored Toothpaste. Over Christmas I finally ran out of the stash I brought with me. I've always preferred cinnamon flavored things to mint. But that's my only choice now. At least I have toothpaste . . . and it tastes like something other than paste.