July 2013


31 July 2013

Posted on Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Last weekend I was lucky enough to fly over to Dublin for a quick visit.  Being on this side of the Atlantic has made it much easier to see family, since flights are obviously quite a bit cheaper than they are from the States.  It's a perk of my living here that I didn't much consider before the move, but have since enjoyed every couple of months.
This visit was a special one, though, as it was to mark the Baptism of my newest cousin, the beautiful Meron Margaret Turner.  My aunt adopted Meron from Ethopia a few months ago, and the baby is as sweet as can be with the best temperament that I've ever seen in a little one of her age.  I was surprised when I shed a few happy tears when I first saw her, but I'm so glad that this little girl gets to be part of our family, and so happy I was able to be there to see her.  She and my aunt and uncle live in Dubai, so I felt especially lucky that we were able to meet in Dublin.  My dad was also able to be there, as he was on a trip to Germany, and we had a really lovely weekend (with probably a few too many fish and chips, for me).  I wished only that my sisters and my mother could have been there, too.

Welcome to our crazy family, little girl!
I'm always filled with lots of emotion when I get to travel home to Ireland.  Though I've lived in the States longest of anywhere, there's not a drop of my blood that isn't Irish and every time the airplane flies low enough to see the neatly bordered green fields, I'm filled with a sense of home that I don't get anywhere else.  There's something about Ireland; something about the smell of burning turf and moisture that seems to be always on the air, the kind faces on every street and sidewalk, and the greenest green stretching for miles and miles and miles.  I love the US, it's an intrinsic part of who I am, but the sense of belonging that I get in Dublin is one that doesn't always come as readily in America.  Or, rather, it's an entirely different sense of belonging.  America is the place where I grew up, where I became who I am, where I met the people that will shape me for the rest of my life.  But Ireland is the place that is who I am.  It's a difficult feeling, a feeling that fills me at times with trepidation.  There's part of me - a big part - that wants to drop everything and move to Dublin, to reconnect with the sense of myself that I find there.  On the other hand, something tells me that no matter how long I stay away, Ireland will always be a part of who I am.  I worry only that the feeling will shrink, or that I'll fill myself with so many other homes - Paris included - that I'll squeeze it out somehow.  As our family that remains in Ireland shrinks, thanks in part to a wanderlust gene that many of us seem to carry, going home will be harder as there will be increasingly fewer people to visit.  I guess, though, if nothing else, I'll have to continue to go back to stock up on Irish tea and chocolate.
Sunny rainy Irish weather from a bus window

This blog isn't meant to be a place where I dredge up my deepest darkest concerns and worries, and I'm sorry to seem overly introspective, but I think that the struggle of my ideas of home is something that will continue for as long as I travel.  I know that my last post included some of the same sentiments, and I am sorry if it's repetitive or boring to read about, but it's something that weighs heavily on my mind from time to time, particularly after trips to other homes like the States and Dublin.  It's an undercurrent that will surface from time to time, and I do hope you'll bear with me while I use this space to help me work it all out.
Aside from all the heavy introspection and my ongoing transcendental struggle (joking...), I'm settling back in to life here after summer travels.  With one best friend already home in the US after her French visa expired and another heading back in the next few weeks, it's hard not to feel uncertain about the future.  Making friends anywhere after college can be really hard, I think, but it can be even harder in a foreign country.  I guess the time has come to check out some ex-pat meet up groups, as nervous and maybe "uncool" as that makes me feel - what I'd give for an awkward Parisian luau at this point! (I guess that joke might be only understandable to Villanova alum?)  But ultimately, this uncertainty is what I signed up for when I booked that plane ticket last summer, and I'd rather the excitement of uncertainty than the monotony of tired routine.  

In other current events, the contract on my tiny little apartment is ending soon.  I'll miss the big window and the broken floor and the rickety ladder leading to my bed, and the apartment will always hold lots of memories of my first year here.  Inviting friends over for dinners where we trip over one another (one friend at a time, only), trying to pack and unpack in a space that hardly fits my suitcase, waking up during winter mornings for a frigid commute through still-dark streets... The place will stay with me forever in its little ways, but I'm hoping for a bit of an upgrade in terms of space and willing to accept a bit of a downgrade in terms of location.  The Paris real estate market moves at the speed of light so I'm spending any spare moment perusing adverts... Here's to hoping I find something as wonderful as this first place!

Paris is quiet in the summertime, and in less touristy areas the streets are emptying as Parisians take their yearly vacances to the beach or the country. In many places, including my neighborhood, tourists are in full force but I try to keep a positive attitude when they block up the sidewalk with their maps and their cameras... I remember how enchanted I was on my first trip to Paris, and I'm just happy to see other people willingly seduced by Paris' charm.  I'm off to the beach this weekend, but other than that I plan to soak in the tranquility of an August in Paris, preparing for the big changes that seem to be coming my way.  Time to hold on tight and see what's coming! xo

P.S.: If you need another excuse to come over and see Paris for yourselves, check out this beautiful video by Sebastian Weitbrecht:


On Living Abroad

Posted on Wednesday, July 17, 2013

When I left for France last September, there were many things I wasn't sure about.
I had picked out and paid for an apartment, but had never laid eyes on it. I'd accepted a job in a poor suburb of Paris, the obligations of which I didn't fully understand. I hadn't held a long conversation in French for months (if not years...).
The list of uncertainties could continue.  I arrived at Charles de Gaulle airport almost a year ago eager and excited, if a bit scared, to see what my new adventure would bring.  I had my doubts, but ultimately was driven forward by an incredible enthusiasm to get out get out get out of the States and to do something different and frightening and new.

And my adventure brought me so many things that I never expected, affected me in ways I didn't anticipate, and continues to teach me things about myself I might never have discovered otherwise.
My little room was even tinier than I'd imagined, but perfect in its Parisian charm (broken floor tiles and view of rooftops included).  My French improved daily and, with effort and a bit of luck, will continue to do so.
Most importantly and most notably, though, my eight months spent as a teaching assistant brought me so much joy - a job more rewarding than I might've dreamed, despite its challenges.  I'll never forget the way my students laughed at my awkward stumbling over their names, names I'd never heard of that came from corners of Senegal and Morocco and Mali that I never knew existed.  I won't forget their silly questions, the way they assumed that every American is a personal acquaintance of both Kim Kardashian AND Barack Obama, has seen a hold-up in person, and visits Miami Beach (pronounced "Mee-ami Bitch!") weekly.  I won't remember all their names, or their endearing mistakes in English, or even the French slang that they taught me, but I won't forget the feeling I had when I was with them weekly.  Working with them brought such happiness to my life,  and it's an experience I will always look back on with only good feelings.  I'm so grateful for everything - the unexpected things, particularly - that I gained during my time with my kids.

But even now, almost a year later and with all of this under my belt, there are still so many things about which I'm still not sure.  To be honest, I thought after a year away, I'd have so much more figured out.
Being home was a strange and fairly unexpected rush of emotions.  A blur of seeing people that I really care about; running from Philadelphia to the Upper East Side and Brooklyn and back down to Yardley in as little time as possible to fit everything and everyone in.  I knew that I'd be glad to see everyone at home, but I never imagined that my heart would want to burst from sheer fullness and joy to be  back around family and college friends (that might as well be family).  I knew that I had missed home, and during my time away I'd never been afraid to shed a homesick tear or two.  But drinking one of my Dad's mojitos in the back garden, or tipsy cab rides laughing about college memories, or making dinner with my Mom and sisters... I didn't anticipate that all these little activities would make me feel as though my heart was breaking into two pieces. One piece full of river-side bike rides and red wine and Camembert and feelings of belonging in a foreign place, and the other piece so full of the love that only home can provide.  Of all the things I anticipated when I moved to France, this kind of heartbreak was certainly not one of them.  With the family history that I have, moving to three countries in the first seven years of my life, I never thought I'd feel so uprooted or so torn as I did over my two weeks at home.  I never really questioned my decision to leave last year, and though I've experienced moments of FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out, for the uninitiated) from afar, I'd never really felt like I made the wrong decision in leaving.

At home, though, I began to wonder if I had made a huge mistake.

After lots of introspection, though, I've come to the conclusion that this feeling is a normal one for the first visit home.  Or at least, I hope it is.  I enjoyed my time at home as it gave me some perspective, allowing me to re-evaluate things in my life from a distance and see what was good and what wasn't. And now, a week deep in my Parisian re-immersion, I no longer wonder if I've made a mistake coming here.  I've used the past week to get back in touch with the person I was a year ago, the person who made the decision to leave.  Because somewhere in between establishing a daily routine and enjoying the weekends of folie, I lost sight of the person I was back then.  It's a work in progress, and I have no doubt it will take time to reconcile my love of being at home with my love of being here in Paris, but it's in admitting this very particular sentiment that I'm finding my resolve to find that person again; to discover and relive the emotions and excitement and enthusiasm of this time last year.  And after all, what better place to begin this rediscovery than Paris?  I'll follow in the footsteps of so many before me, though admittedly without the help of a certain Green Fairy.

So with this very personal update, the blog is back with every good intention to pick up where I left off with updates.  Though there are no pictures attached to this post,  I update my Instagram regularly (probably too often) and you can see those photos by clicking here.

As always, thank you for reading my li'l blog, and thank you so much for all the love and support.  It's not easy being far away from so many people that I love so much, but your support makes a world of difference.  You all make me feel at home, no matter where I am.  Until next time, xo.