‘Done’ is the new Perfect

I met a lovely makeup artist today who quoted this to me when I blamed my current lack of time + blogger’s block as the reason why my blog has been un-updated since last year. So here I am, going for “done”.

(The person she was quoting, BTW, was a Danish model. Who is 19 years old. )

The lack of time is rather legit: inspired by the solo biking exploits described in Suze, Cycling (who likes to bike up steep mountains in the south of France), I decided it’s time to actually get back in shape rather than talking about my desperate need to do so. Cuz I’d like to be able to bike up steep mountains in the south of France too someday.

But for this year, I’ll content myself with a triathlon. I’ve joined an expats Tri club (cleverly called the expaTRIés), so I not only do I have some structure for training, I also get to talk in English with several people at once, often other native English speakers, which is fun and novel. I can make jokes! I don’t have to grope for words midway through telling a story! I meet other women who are not averse to sweating while clad in lycra!

So since early Jan I’ve been going out regularly to swim and and run (very, very slowly) around a track  and ride loops around the Longchamps hippodrome (thankfully, much better than my running).

This is new for me. While I’ve always been somewhat active, it was pretty random. A hike here, a bike ride there, a few years of casual running 2x a week, often followed by a bacon-laden brunch. And then I’d spend the next several days moaning about sore muscles, then not do anything for weeks (these last few years, make that months).  Then repeat the process.

So for the first time in my life I’m working out 4-6 times a week. This means I sleep a lot, and eat even more. And grocery shop & cook more, because I’m doing another whole30 this month (then there’s the dishes. Our dishwasher is on the fritz, and my backup dishwasher is away on business. My hands have started to shrivel).

My first mini-tri is a week Sunday!

It’s all quite fun, but not good for writing.

Tomorrow I will be introducing some newbie cyclists to the gorgeous Val de la Chevreuse, which is the local cycling mecca for roadies and mountain bikers alike. I’ve never lead a group of cyclists before: I’m more used to being the one wheezing at the back since moving to Paris.

But I noticed several of my fellow newbie triathletes are still not comfortable with things like switching gears and clipping out of pedals.  It seems far more pleasant to get to know one’s bike in lovely quiet countryside rather than an urban track with literally hundreds of cyclists in fast-moving peletons threatening to mow you down at every turn.

I hope they enjoy biking there as much as I do. On verra. I am praying we have no mechanical issues beyond flat tires!

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Today marks 5 years in France

5 years ago today we arrived in Paris. It was the night of the US election. The city was going through a spell of Obama-mania.

Mannequin wearing "I <heart> Obama" t-shirt

I was ThRilLed to be here, HerrKaa, merely lukewarm.

In years 1 and 2 I never wrote an anniversary post, because we were feeling pretty Meh about the challenges of Parisian daily life.

In years 3 and 4, I didn’t post for a different reason: my brain was simply too exhausted from all the learning for my new job (the technology, the work culture, and so many French expressions)  to have energy to email friends, never mind blog. And HerrKaa was preoccupied with training for the Étape du Tour bike race.

5 years after his election, Parisians, along with the rest of Europe, have very different feelings towards Obama.

recent headlines about US spying in Europe, particularly France - Nov 2013

And we have very different feelings about being in France.

Obvious revelation #1: Don’t sweat the small stuff

My initial euphoria has been tempered by a lot of hard knocks to the ego, but nowadays I can relish what we came here for: the food and wine and travel and beauty and incredible art literally, like, everywhere you freakin’ look, and no longer panic over Paperwork Problems. It helped learning from coworkers that the bureaucracy is a real struggle for the French too.

Also, now that I realize how rare it is for expats like me to land a full-time job in their industry at a French company (not a US multinational), I no longer feel so much like the total incompetent that I felt like for the first 2.5 years.

Obvious revelation #2: Learning the local lingo really does help

Meanwhile HerrKaa, initially reluctant to learn French, now is able to do things like comparison shop for new insurance policies, go to all-French bike races in the countryside, and enjoy watching M6’s non-stop apartment search/home staging shows, tout en français.  

Not only does that make HerrKaa feel way more comfortable here, it took a huge weight off me. Now someone else can understand what comes in the mail, or pick up the cat from the vet and discuss when to do the next contrôle du sang (blood test)! Because we do know of couples, who even have kids in the French school system, where only one spouse can communicate in French. When that spouse also has a full-time job, that becomes a serious burden.

(It also makes me wonder….would those Frenchophobes, the ones who only frequent English language libraries, churches, book stores, and live in anglo-heavy neighbourhoods be the same people who complain back home about immigrants who never assimilate? I’m not saying that it’s right, but if an immigrant community already exists it is so much easier to just stay there. Not too long ago I interviewed an American, who has lived here for 14 years and is married to a French woman, but literally couldn’t even handle bonjour.)

Obvious revelation #3: Travel is soooo much easier here

The other major improvement is we eventually found our travel groove, mastering the art of multi-modal travel, usually a combo of train, rental-car and bike. But since I do want to post this today instead of two weeks from now, I’ll talk about that in an upcoming post about visiting Slovenia and the South of France this past summer.

What about you? What milestones have you reached in the past 5 years?

It’s weird, but good, to be back

That applies first to being back on this long-neglected blog, and being back in Paris, after my first visit back to Canada in 2.5 years, and to Vancouver in over 3.

There were some cultureshock moments, like shortly after arriving at Pearson International in Toronto.

Upon entering the ladies’, I was greeted by a sight that, 5 years ago, would probably ensured I never left Canada (or that particular bathroom) ever again.

Even the ladies' room has wifi at YYZ.

You’ve got to be kidding.

And, as if reading my mind…

Yes, even here.

OMG, they’re serious.

 

And mostly lots of a honest-to-goodness FACE TIME with family and friends, who seem to have remembered who we were even after five years away and who have done lots of interesting things in the interim, like spawn and buy cute houses or renovate the ones they have (looking at you, mom and dad).

I desperately want to write more about that trip (and post photos from the scary large assortment that by magic seem to be auto-saved to Dropbox), but I realize it’s simply a procrastination technique.

You see, that’s another weird thing about “being back” – in this case, being back on this blog – is that the last time I was blogging regularly I was a freaked-out expat housewife. Freaked-out because I needed to find an apartment and then a job in this city that I thought I loved but was currently finding to be one big, beautiful, eye-wateringly expensive enigma, and in the background the media wouldn’t shut up about the world economy imploding and that it was The End of Employment for All Eternity.

Fast forward 5 years. We eventually found a lovely apartment and I found a job–several in fact, much to my amazement–and re-kindled my love of Paris. I now have a safe job (read: CDI contract) managing a small team, plus the prospect of better benefits and yet more vacation in a few months thanks to a corporate acquisition. My office is literally in the heart of the city, a stone’s throw away from the haute couture houses I worshipped when I was a teenager*. I can walk to work almost entirely along the Seine and through the Tuileries park in 40 minutes!

But for too many reasons to list here, I’m itching to try freelancing – and the flexibility that goes with it. Me, a lifetime employee. Me, living in country that has an income tax policy that, while harsh for just about everybody (including, famously, Gerard Derpardieu), is particularly harsh to the self-employed.

Ok, it would be really exciting at this point to announce that I actually left that all behind me and have been running a thriving freelance biz for the past year.

Not quite. Since I am a Capricorn after all and have been addicted to some really great blogs on this sort of thing (more on that later), I’ve managed to resist quitting outright and have been testing the waters. So far, they are neither tropical warm, nor arctic cold. But i need to dip my feet in once again before I’ll know how viable this idea is.

But I couldn’t resist stopping here to say hello.

* In honour of that fashion-mad, semi-artistic teenager I was, today I wore blue leopard print tights from my “tights of the month” service to work.  I love this service (so does HerrKaa – I wear more skirts), and love as well that no one bats an eye here.