Monday, October 24, 2011

Reporting from the right bank

Since I've moved to the other side of the river, I've had to change some old habits. You get used to your haunts, the same faces on the street, the baker that knows you by name and uses tu with you like you've known each other for years. Now it's new metro stops and bus lines to route out, a new grocery store (and I had just perfected navigating the aisles of my old one!), new shops and streets to learn. I'm enjoying learning a different part of Paris, even though I'd walked around this area many times before moving here. But it's not the same as actually living there. You have to know your neighborhood, especially in Paris (well, France), where most businesses are closed on Sunday. Luckily, there are little superettes--over-priced convenience stores that are open till around midnight--around the city, but you have to know where to find them. They're usually tucked away in an unsuspecting corner as to attract the least amount of people possible. Anyway, still getting to know my surroundings, and I see something new every day that I hadn't noticed before. Though I really hate schlepping all my crap around the city every year when I move, it's nice to get to live in different parts of Paris. I love getting closer to the "real" Paris with each street roamed, each metro stop used, each bakery visited. (The French may not be the best cookie makers, but they most definitely excel in making other baked goods.)

I've relocated to the République/Bastille area, a very posh and busy part of the city. It's actually the merging of three arrondissements (districts)--the 3rd, 10th and 11th. Lots of bars filled on the weekends, cute hipster-filled cafés, bike shops, art galleries, etc. It's cool and I've just barely started to discover the places around me.

Since there's no direct metro or bus to my work, I've taken to biking to work. I could take the metro, but even lazy Rachel admits that a 25-minute metro ride is just stupid compared to the 10-minute bike ride. Ask me about this in late November and I might have a different answer.  I take the city bike that I have a subscription to and have to go around this big statue:

It can get kind of scary. Plus, it's cobblestone that's not completely flat, and plus, incoming cars have the right of way. It's like a mini Etoile--maybe I'll try that one next. (With a helmet and insurance card.) But I like to think that biking around Bastille on a daily basis makes me a little more Parisian..or at least I pretend! (Two years in and I finally tie back to the title of my blog)  Usually, it's not this crowded, but this picture was clearly taken during a strike. And it is currently strike season, so I'd be lying if I said I hadn't already seen it look similar to this in the mere three weeks I've been living here. Pretty soon it will get cold and like magic! The strikes will go down to practically nothing. 

Another week of school went by and I've started to get into a routine, finally. I hate the first few days of class because you're still figuring out logistics and trying to make a good impression, ha. I've got the metro route down (it is god-awful in the morning. Squeezed up against the walls, fun.), I know where my classes are, I know my classmates' faces, and (most importantly) I've gotten a temporary library card while I wait for my enrollment to be made official. France is slow with anything that involves filling out papers, and university is no exception. Being as I was accepted at the very end of September, my process has been pushed back. They're still validating my American degrees or something, I'm not totally sure. Even though I haven't had to pay yet, I'd rather just write the check and get this behind me. I had to reschedule my appointment at the prefecture because my current uni is taking so long, and I need my official "you're in school" certificate to get the cheap metro pass....sigh, France. You're exhausting sometimes.

The more I study translation, the more I think why didn't I just do this before? I've been a language enthusiast for a good five or six years. It made sense for me to finish up my journalism degree in the US and obviously it would have been a waste for me to have not finished my French degree after spending a year and a half in France. But all those months two years ago that I mulled over which degree to choose, what path to follow, how I could incorporate my language love and journalism..I don't know why I cast away translation so quickly. Probably because I know, here at the beginning, that it is not a job you do for the loads of money. It's more of a "Ok, I have these skills that would be wasted if they just chilled in my brain. Can I find something that can put them to use and I can make and ok living out of?"-career. I'm ok with that. I really enjoy translating between languages, learning new translation software, meeting other to-be translators with a huge variety of languages, tying in a lot of the communication studies I did last year, and *best of all* talking strict grammar. I love grammar, and can pull out subordinated clause, direct object pronoun, epithet adjective  and many others like no one's business. 

Did I mention that I'm taking German and Spanish classes for fun? Oh yeah. Might have gotten in a little over my head. Translating into French won't be allowed in my professional career, but is good practice for now. I have a high enough level that I do an ok job. However, translating from French to Spanish? Oooh là, a bit difficult. It's a challenge that I am enjoying, but so far is taking up a big chunk of my time. Eeek.

So, all and all, I'm really enjoying my second go at being a student in France. The commute is longer, and the school is a little rough, but it feels like I'm where I should be. And not watching kids anymore? Oh, the joy. OH THE JOY. 

Sunday, October 16, 2011

It's definitely fall/On est bien en automne

I didn’t mean to be away this long! Four months later, I’m still alive, still in Paris. I had a few entries written, just waiting on pictures or a final read-over..but life caught up with me, what can I say. I might post one that I wrote in September because I had nearly finished it and then kind of forgot to publish it..

So, a short summary of Rachel's first full-length summer in Paris :
Finished with children on July 1st. Left for vacation July 2nd! I went on a little tour of the Germanic countries to meet friends. Berlin to see my friend, Brittany; Bamberg, to visit my two German friends ; and finally, to Vienna, to see a high school friend get married to an Austrian winemaker (not bad, huh!).

All in all, a good experience despite the crap weather in Berlin, again! I still like the city but I hope to see it in the sun one day! The cheap cost of living tempts me..maybe in a year or two I’ll head on over there. It was good to see Bamberg and friends again, and I went out with them and all their German friends to a pub quiz. It was fun, even if they had to translate a lot for me. All the more reason for me to finally conquer this language! Vienna was very pretty and classic. So many nice buildings and I loved that the trams were still old school with wooden seats and signs from the 60’s. The wedding was beautiful, and it was a perfect summer day. And the wine was abundant! But more than a week of traveling behind me, I was ready to come back to Paris. I love German, but sadly I'm not fluent (yet). After trying to express myself (poorly) for a week, it was so nice to hear French again. Enfin je comprends tout!

Worked my ass off. Following the summertime tradition of intense labor since 15, I put in a lot of hours at the café. I knew I'd have to find an apartment in September, so I started putting away money in a little jar on my shelf so I'd be reminded to add to it! Luckily tips were pretty good thanks to the tourists that were in there non-stop. It was strange for the first few weeks not having to frame my day around the school hours. I didn’t have to watch my kids except for one week—just picking them up from a daycare and waiting till the parents got home.

Spent a lot of time at the library. A French test in early August and watching kids for one week later in the month reminded me that September would be, in short, awful. Although I enjoyed my time off, I knew I had this 5-page project to write to get accepted to my Master’s program, due the first week of September. Not to mention completing the whole application process—various forms to fill out, a cover letter, a CV, translated transcripts, the aforementioned French test and the promise of my first-born child. Plus tons of time researching for the 5-page project—which was to explain the idea for my mémoire—a 50-page paper due at the end of your first year. Confused yet? Me too.

There was some other stuff in there--Bastille Day on my roof, gorgeous sunsets, cafés with friends, sales, the faux-beach "Paris Plage," a mini-trip to the Netherlands, the subsequent six-week obsession with the Dutch language, reading novels, eating baguettes and drinking wine on the canal, going to the outdoor cinema with picnics, enjoying Paris without the Parisians, deserted libraries, long days and warm(ish) nights.

(Of course there were also the plentiful grey skies, the tourists on every corner of the city, the lack of open bakeries or really anything, ridiculously hot days at work, the frozen state of the French bureaucracy, hearing about everyone else's génial vacations, the building concierge yelling at me for having too many people on the roof, the massive return of Parisians and their offspring..)

My  kids' school started back up in September, so there were 15 hours a week there, another 25-30 at the café, apartment searching and subsequent moving, the 5-page paper, interview and translation test preparation, and oh by the way, my visa expired at the end of August and I imperatively needed to get into school to be able to stay in France…


I’m pretty calm most of the time. I take things one at a time and deal with what comes at me. But here, I didn’t have the luxury of doing that. Everything culminated in a short period of time. For two days, I was convinced that my application hadn’t arrived at the office in time, and here I was, a day away from signing a lease contract without having a acceptance letter to get a visa to actually stay in France so I could fulfill the lease..

Cue the quarter (+1)-life crisis and scrambling to figure out what to do in the case that I had to leave France. Korea? Germany? New York? Marriage ad on Craigslist? It was not a pretty little freak-out session, I’ll tell you.

But. All ended well, or at least I hope it continues to be that way. Moved out of my 7th floor apartment on the Left Bank to a new, 7th floor apartment on the Right Bank. (I have FAR too many books.) Finished with my kids and passed off the job to the new girl. (Such a relief. Loved my family, but it was time to leave Nannydom.) Got a letter later in the week of freaking out that the university had received my dossier and it was being looked over. Then came the tests (ok), interview (horrible), re-writing of project (stressful), and acceptation to the program. (YES!) I am now a bonafide student of translation. Classes started last week.

So. That brings us up to about now. I have an appointment at the prefecture on Tuesday, and I know that I won't have everything I need to get my visa renewed. My new university is taking forever to get all my paperwork through and I’ve given up harassing them. It’s one of those “you just have to wait until it gets processed, it’s working..” type of things. I’ve had the visa appointment for two months, and it’s very likely that I will be sent away within five minutes with a new appointment in 2012. Sigh. I’m preparing my best defensive and slightly rude French phrases just in case.

Uni--so far, so good. The program is very time consuming, and I'm juggling work with that as well. I really enjoy doing the translations and am excited to learn more as the year progresses. I've always worked a lot during my studies, and though I'd obviously prefer to sleep more have more time to study, there's only so much you can wish for. I'm down two jobs (nanny, English teacher), so I already feel like I have an enormous amount of time in front of me. My school schedule is packed into two days, which makes for long days but less time commuting the hour-long trip each way. More to come as I settled into my program.