Ten Years

Ten years ago today I hugged my parents goodbye, got on a plane, and left for France.

What was supposed to be a seven-month once-in-a-lifetime experience turned into a life.

When I think about that trip over it’s really pretty astonishing I stayed, since I was actually really sad and nervous to go. Weather was bad in Texas that day, but I had been spending the month at my mom’s condo in San Antonio and had gotten very comfortable there—not to mention there were poodle puppies. My flights got rerouted twice and I eventually was on a tight connection through Chicago and London, arriving four hours later than I was supposed to in Paris. Here’s that story told in a jet-lagged state from the lycée computer room.

I magically still managed to meet up in the Gare de l’Est with Zandra, who was identifiable only by her sparkling smile and the orange ribbon on her suitcase. I called my responsable at the school from a pay phone with an international calling card to warn her I was on a later train. She picked me up at the little train station in Bar le Duc, took me to her house to send an e-mail home, and then dropped me off at the internat to sleep. I woke up in the night and cried, wondering what craziness had taken over me to go so far away from home to sleep in such a cold, hospital-like bedroom.

It is not one of my best memories. Somehow in the following weeks things turned around and I fell in love with this country and this language. Sometimes I take a step back from the day to day and marvel at how I somehow live a normal life in France after all this time.


Why would you move to France when you could live with these faces?


Ten years means:

  1. Boris and Otto are no longer puppies but progressing practically into thoroughbred old age.
  2. Ten years since my mom dropped everything and changed careers (sort of), moved to a new city, and introduced us to San Antonio.
  3. Three different French cities
  4. Four different French teaching jobs
  5. Six different French housing situations
  6. Extensive travel both near and far on my own and with new friends, family, and a partner
  7. Eight cartes de séjour (in 2006 the year-long visa and the OFII didn’t exist yet) and a new nationality
  8. Four absentee ballots (not counting the 2016 primaries)
  9. A huge stack of bulletins de salaire that I’ll keep till I die—and a ton of other files in hard copy
  10. Numerous expat friends who’ve come and gone, or stayed when I’ve gotten lucky

And of course a thousand other things, but ten seems like a nice, round number, doesn’t it?

6 thoughts on “Ten Years

  1. Congratulations on your ten years!

    All the teachers and assistants called the internat where I stayed “the haunted hospital”. I even had one of those tables that you can pull over your bed in my room, and somebody told me that when they closed the local hospital, the internat did actually acquire a whole lot of furniture from there.

    I’m pretty sure I cried in the night there too.

    • Thanks! The funny thing about it is my responsable (a lovely woman) told me upon dropping me off that it was “plutôt pas mal”. I mean, yes, it was clean and warm and a great deal, but it DID feel like a hospital—all of us who lived there agreed. Glad to know we weren’t the only ones.

    • Thanks! There was some equivalent office with some much longer acronym—I think it was the DDTEFP which became the DIRECCTE at some point. But the visa was only good for three months so you had to get a carte de sejour for the year.

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