It's All Uphill

Trip Start Jan 01, 2014
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of France  , Île-de-France,
Saturday, January 4, 2014

Deep breaths.

That's what I kept reminding myself on the plane as I jolted awake from my 2 hours of sleep to realize that I was going to be living in a foreign country for 6 months. This whole time I've been preparing myself, I genuinely thought it wouldn't be all that hard. I'd lived abroad before in a country that most people would consider treacherous compared to the calm streets of France. There was no way that this could be any harder.

Of course, I was wrong. It's a lot harder coming to a country where you know very little of the language. It's even harder when you're living with a family and having to learn how to fit in with them--on top of communication troubles with the children. Then the cherry on top, having to learn how to drive a manual car in completely foreign territory with people you really just met 2 days ago

This is where I found myself yesterday while I had my first lessons with Sylvie*. Sylvie is the mother of the family and is a very sweet woman. Her face lit up when she saw me searching for a familiar face in the crowd at the airport. She tells me stories about the kids and her own childhood; all-in-all she's great. However, put me behind a stick shift with the 2 year old in the backseat and us trying to come from a complete stop on a steep hill, and you will meet a very stressed Sylvie! Poor thing was very patient with me, but the stress of her mildly panicking, Raphaelle (2 year old little girl) babbling in the background, and a line of cars forming behind me while I stalled time-after-time was enough to make me wonder why I thought moving to France for 6 months would be a good idea.

After this experience, we found a quiet road going uphill that had been recently paved for a new housing subdivision. We practiced for about 30 more minutes there before we decided to go back home. Later that evening, Denis (the dad, also extremely nice and patient) took me out for another lesson with the oldest child (Claire - 6) to the same spot. Partly because he was much calmer and partly because I'd already practiced quite a bit that day, I managed to move the car uphill without stalling each time. Every time I would manage to balance the clutch and the gas and release the parking brake at the same time, Denis would let out a triumphant "Alright!" Claire joined in after a few tries when she realized the meaning of her dad's outbursts. It was very cute!

Today we had another driving lesson, and I did it without almost any trouble. We drove around the town, and I only stalled once!  I felt much more comfortable behind the wheel and am even getting a pretty good feel for how to get to the important places in town. This is the perfect analogy for how I now feel about my move to France. It's going to be really hard because I'm still going uphill, but the more I work at it, the easier it will get.

It's also really easy when Paris is just a few minutes away! The family took me for a short outing in the city this afternoon. We passed by the Arc de Triomphe and drove down the Avenue Champs-Élysées before parking and walking to the Notre Dame Cathedral. The line to go in was hilariously long, so I only took a picture from the front and will have to go back and explore it some other time. We then walked around for a few more minutes and accidentally interrupted the beginning of a mass in one of the oldest churches in Paris. It was completely surreal being in the city and seeing everything that I'd only dreamed of or seen on television.

While Paris was awesome, I'd have to say the best part of today was the mini dance party that I had with the family after dinner. Raphaelle, who hasn't been quite sure what she thinks of me, danced with me for a while and loved it so much that she asked me to pick her up again. Then after her mother put her to bed, she came down and got me out of my room to come tuck her in too. It's moments like that which remind me that the uphill climb is worth it!

The next post I will tell you a bit more about the family and how my first official day went...

*In case she's reading, my lovely friend Katie did teach me how to drive manual before I left Texas and did an amazing job at it! We just never got to the hills.
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Maria Parsley on

Phew!!! You are a brave girl :) learning to drive manually is really tough on hills, but I can't imagine learning from a foreign stranger! You are amazing! Lee pushing up those hills, it's so worth it ;)

Methe on

Girl!!! I offered you lessons a million times...LOL....
You'll see... Once you get the hang of it, you will find that using stick, makes driving soooo much more fun! :-)
Anyways... I hope you don't feel any loneliness at all... Thats almost always the inevitable travel-companion.

and...Skype me! :-)

Jamie on

Good for you! I knew you'd pick it up in no time. Practice makes perfect. The family sounds great. What sweet kids! I can't wait to hear about your further adventures. Love you!!

pardonmyfrance on

Thank you, Maria!! Luckily, they both speak English, so it's not too bad. But Sylvie didn't know the exact words so it was funny to have her yell "Left! Brake! Gas!"

Methe, how were you going to teach me without a car? haha I'm starting to get a better hang of the driving, but now it's really learning my way around and the slight differences in driving etiquette here vs. US.

Thanks, Aunt Jamie! It's hard to believe that it was so long ago when you let me drive the Miata!

Isis on

Aww!! Dance parties! That sounds lovely.. the manual driving part not so much.. I know I would've been horrible at it so good for you for learning!!! :D I can't wait to see more pictures! Paris is beautiful!! How are the temperatures?! It's like 27 degrees here, so I bet it is FREEZING there! Miss chu!

pardonmyfrance on

It's actually much warmer here than it is in the US right now! It's stayed in the upper forties to low fifties the whole time, which is nice. The sun isn't always out though, so it can make it seem colder. But Denis was telling me that the weather patterns are that we usually experience the weather the US is having about 2 weeks later, so there may be a chance we'll have SUPER cold weather and snow in the near future. I'm praying it dissipates over the ocean though!

Perle on

Hahahahahahahaha I had not seen this :D
OMG I'm laughing so hard :D I remember telling you it would be hard to drive our cars when we were going to San Marcos ^^
I still "stall" sometimes(I guess that's "caller", French word for the car stopping because not enough gas?), and it happens to all of us :)
Today I didn't notice I was driving in a "sens-unique" street (one way), when I realize I started shaking, a police guy waved at me, oops (didn't stop me though)

Perle on

Also, I hope you get to see Montmartre soon! And le marais and les halles...

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