connect!

there goes the neighorhood.




Here we are in the midst of another fluctuating summer in Paris. One day it is sunny and blazing hot and the next it's hailstorm pelting icy chunks of rain onto the cars, my head, and the sidewalks. When the sun does come out, I really have to force myself out of the house, away from my manuscript to enjoy these slices o' summer. Because before soon it will be la rentrée, and I'll complain, wondering where the summer went. 

Two weeks ago, a dreary day had unexpectedly turned into a sunny afternoon, beckoning me to go out to enjoy some of it with a trip to the supermarket. In a large tote, I stuffed a reusable Monoprix nylon sac, my wallet and an umbrella...just in case. 

Purposefully I chose the market located 15 minutes away from my house, on the other side of my neighborhood for maximum sunshine and a little low intensity cardio. During this walk, I soaked up the sun admiring how sleepy my area of the 12th gets over the summer, and snapped a few phone photos of the summer flowers blooming on the sides of the prominade plantée

The streets may have sketched the scenes of a quiet summer in the city, the supermarket, however, did not echo this sentiment (maybe this is where everyone was?). 

While doing my shopping, through the windows I caught a glance of what was once that sunny day I had been basking in, had turned suddenly dark and bit threatening. Good thing I had my umbrella, I thought with a shrug before going back to squeezing and smelling mini cantaloupes.

By the time I got to the checkout, the sky had completely opened up and was pouring sheets of rain, drenching any pedestrian that got in the way of its wrath. Knowing that this sort of heavy rain would only laugh at the pocket umbrella I had brought along you know, 'just in case', I had to wait it out. I stood in the supermarket's entrance with my bags and about 10 other customers who like me, weren't willing to brave the sudden extreme weather conditions. 

With nothing to read but a circular left on the floor, with joy, I had discovered that market was promoting an all American-themed food festival! For a limited time only, the market would be offering a selection of American 'delicacies' such as cake pops, peanut butter, onion dip, popcorn, hamburger buns and whoopie pies. Images of 1950's housewives, a route 66 sign, fireworks, and dancing cupcakes with little faces supported the promotion, inciting a small chuckle that my country is still sometimes hued with this image of 1950's American idealism. To be fair, if my mom's local market on Lawg Guyland had "French week", I can only imagine what kind of clichés that would welcome.

Ten minutes in the steaming supermarket entranceway: The rain was not letting up. A man had stolen groceries which prompted the alarm to sound. No one chased after him. The room was getting more humid by the customer. The cashiers were overwhelmed by the volume of customers. The customers were complaining that the cashiers weren't moving fast enough (like there was anywhere to go...) And the alarm continued to sound. Fuck this. I had my jellies on. So, I left.

Two seconds out in the rain, I had immediately regretted my decision to flee. I couldn't go back; that would only accept defeat. Like a warrior I continued on my journey with the knowledge that there was a café up the street. I picked up my pace and began to run, with my groceries pounding against my hip, my tee-shirt at that point being obscenely wet, and drops of rain gathering under my umbrella drip dropping on me.

I made it to the café drenched and cold, and chose a window seat and a glass of pinot noir to warm up with, and to wait for the rain to subside. It did. Only about an hour later. I went to pay the check but the 5€ bill I was certain I had was a melange of coins that did not add up to the 3.50 value of the bill. 

"By any chance can I pay by card?" I asked, and waited for an exasperated response that they only accept cards à partir de 15€.

It came.

I then asked if there was a nearby bank where I could grab some cash. She informed me that there was a bank up the street and around the corner near the Montgallet métro. 

Génial.

"Merci," I said, "I'll be right back."

A look of concern poured down her face and a nod no.

"But you have to pay first." She said, not at all joking.

"Right, but I have to get money first. I only have 2€ in change making me short."

"Hold on, let me ask my manager."

Okay.

The manager, who was pulled away from her smoke break, repeated that I had to pay my bill before leaving to go to the bank. 

"If I could pay my bill I wouldn't need to go to the bank." I think, or at least I hope I effectively communicated in French.

"Can you leave a piece of ID then?"

That seemed a little hardcore for 3.50, I thought before pulling out and handing over my titre de séjour. The manager pulled down her glasses to analyze it before handing it back to me.

"It's expired, Madame."

Judas Priest! It was true. It was expired. The temporary récépissé that I probably should always carry with me before my appointment at La Cité, I had left at home. Can you blame me for not thinking that I was going to need it? She then leaned over the bar, peered into my wallet and saw my California driver's license and a New York Learner's Permit (braces!).

"What about those?" She asked, pointing down to my wallet.

It hadn't even occurred to me to use a piece of American ID. I plucked out my California license, which always reminds me of spending a half day of our honeymoon at the Hollywood DMV and the unexpected expenses it had accrued, and realized that it was worth way more than a glass of pinot noir. While I knew nothing was going to happen to it, I guess I wanted my collateral to be just a little more even. Now it was me who was being the complicated one...

Realizing that I could have gone to the bank two times already, I had come up with a solution! I opened up my bag of groceries pulled out my packet of chicken breasts that were marked at 5.34€ (more expensive than the wine and equally as important to me as them wanting to be paid) and put it on the bar.

"C'est plus cher que le vin. Look," I said pointing to the sticker, "I will be right back. I promise. I'm making chicken parm tonight."

Says the Italian chick from New York...

Ignoring their protests "Madame! Madame! Non!" I left them in what I imagined were their fists pounding in the air and steam coming out of the ears, and took myself to the damn bank. 

Six minutes later, I returned clutching my cash, my chicken waiting for me on the bar, and two pissed off servers still complaining about me. I handed her a ten, waited for the change (which I have to say, felt a little reluctance on her part) scooped my chicken off the counter and wished them a bonne journée

"C'est pas normal," I caught one saying to the other with a gasp as I was exiting. While the other one reduced me to be so américaine.

I wasn't offended by their response, sure, it was bold especially for our quiet little area. The only thing I could not help but wonder, the one thing picking on my mind as I walked home in the cool aftermath of the storm was: Will they will be partaking in the American-themed celebration at the supermarket the following week? Or did it ruin it for them on the day I forgot to give a fuck?


Happy summer from Paris, all!

turning the page.


So that's it, Tuesday was my last day with the little French tots...forever. Can you believe it? A job that was supposed to be temporary stretched out to two years. And as unglamorous as it was, I learned just as much at this job as I did at my fancy shmancy fashion job in New York and at my temp tax office job here in Paris.

Before closing this chapter of my life, I had an appointment to zip to that I had made three months ago. Christening my sparkling new carte vitale, I went to my first ever gynecologist appointment in Paris before heading to final day of school. Unlike these appointments I have experienced in the States, I did not wait an hour in the waiting room listening to Fresh 102.7 and another 15 minutes half-naked and alone in a cold room (Wait, don't the lyrics to that Natalie Imbuglia song kinda go something like this?). 

No, this appointment was speedy, which for Paris, was pretty shocking. I read about a page in my book before being welcomed in personally by the doctor (not a wound-up receptionist barking at patients in the waiting room asking if they have insurance or not.) The check up itself was routine, and when it was done, I proudly handed over my carte vitale and paid 34 in which 23 will be reimbursed. Parfait! Here's however, the part I was not expecting: she handed me a little-sealed paper bag and wished me a bonne journée. Merci? 

So, I expect a goody bag at the dentist but at the gynecologist? What could I have possibly needed to-go? I shook the bag, holding it close to my ear in hopes for a clue. Shake, shake. No clues there.

"That is simply your (enter unidentified word in French here) to send to the laboratoire, Madame." She informed me after witnessing the shake. Because I had done so well during the entire appointment, taking about the history of my lady parts all in French (a round of applause!) I didn't want to ruin the fun by asking her to clarify. I nodded and feigned total comprehension with an exaggerated d'accord before shuffling out of her office.

Out on the sidewalk, naturally I called Aurélien who is usually on stand-by for translation purposes when I have these first time appointments. 

"Hey," he picked up on the second ring, "Did everything go okay?"

"Yeah, it was perfect," I said looking down at the bag, "But I think she gave me a bag of my stuff."

"Okay," he lingered, searching for something, anything to say as the French translation 'un sac de mes choses' was not terribly clear.

What also struck me as odd was that this paper envelope containing particles of my cervix that I was instructed to send through the mail did not require a light proof black bag, a biohazard sticker, or anything to officially notify the handlers that it was a medical delivery. Does this seem strange to anyone else?

"Anyway, I have to send it off to "the lab" now (I've kinda of always wanted to say that)," I said looking up at the clock at Daumesnil noticing the minute hand inching closer to the time I needed to be at school. "Merde. I actually really don't know if I can make it. I wasn't expecting to have to send this off myself."

"You probably should do it before you see the kids, I think," he suggested, "Because they are always curious about what's in your bag."

Gross, gross, gross.

"You're right and also, it is hot today. Do you think the heat from the sun will deactivate my cells if I don't send it asap? Is that even possible?" I asked. 

"Just go send it," he said with a nervous chuckle. "Courage."

I went to the closest post office and as usual, the line was long and the place was scorching hot. The usually dismal scene of the post office was animated by a man angrily shouting and cursing at the piece of paper he was filling out, another man walking in with a dog the size of a sofa, and the anxiety that came from holding a bag containing my important specimen. I anxiously looked down at my phone and saw that I was cutting it very close. If the métro ran smoothly with no delays and I caught all three transfers without waiting on the platform then I would be there right on time, I calculated. But as I always say: Paris is a city that is not your friend when you're in a rush. Having been burned many times by trying to push her to move faster, where her wrath comes in the form of a stray dog found wandering on the tracks resulting in a 30-minute delay (yes, this did happen once), I had no choice but to forgo the post office.

Why not just be late? What's the big deal? Good question. The last time I was late I got scolded by the director (Il faut pas, Il faut pas!), they wouldn't direct me to the children, I got yelled at by the maids because I didn't say bonjour to them (I was looking for the children, at that moment it really wasn't about them) and I set off an alarm of a side door that I apparently was not supposed to open. So being late was not at all appealing.

I made it to school on time and following the directions I had received earlier from the parents via text, I took the kids home early. What I was expecting to be a house scattered with suitcases and vacation paraphernalia because they were heading off to Italy the following day, was instead a party...in my honor.

A table was set with wine (they know me so well), Champagne (okay, they know me really well), and an assortment of little gifts to thank me. Around the table were the parents, the kids who each handed me a present and thanked me for being the best Lisa ever and Franck who told me that he was relieved that he never has to speak English again, and Aurélien.

Of course I started to cry. I didn't realize how much they all appreciated me and how much they were a part of my life.

As much as these little guys drove me insane by opening the bathroom door when I was on the toilet, sliding destroyed art projects under the door and screaming voilà, flipping out on Boulevard Magenta because I didn't declare that one of them was cozy, and flipping out as we walked through dark hallways during power outage, I'm really going to miss them. How could I not? But now it's off to the next chapter of my Parisian life, whatever that will be. 

Aurel and I sat in the cab ride home that night, watching the city pass by, just me, him and my bag of cervix. Who knows, maybe my next experience with children will be with my own. Now that's a thought. Let's see what the lab has to say...